Listen Up!

Soggy Weather Helps Create An Intimate Setting For Injury Reserve at House of Blues

Injury Reserve member Stepa fronting the group
Injury Reserve member Stepa fronting the group Photo by Jennifer Lake at House of Blues

A small crowd of those willing to brave the downpour of tropical depression Imelda gathered in The Bronze Peacock Room at The House of Blues Wednesday night to catch Arizona-based hip-hop trio Injury Reserve. While the threat of rain might have reduced the number of patrons, those in attendance were granted an intense and intimate experience.

As the trap sub-genre helps hip-hop dominate the charts and fill the club with tunes to dance to, extreme vocals and ear piercing sounds from more obscure hip-hop groups keep the underground alive. 

Veering from the traditional sounds of modern mainstream hip-hop, the group consisting of rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, as well as producer Parker Corey, have earned a branding of “alternative” hip hop. Grittier, more aggressive beats, mixed with distorted bass tones and a multitude of sampled sounds ranging from jazz instruments, to soul vocals, and the addition of experimental noises, create a unique style of music that can appeal to a vast range of music fans.

To begin the show, a computerized female voice spoke through the monitors, "How to host a rap show. Step 1, check lights." Instantly, all of the LEDs in the intricate light setup on the stage came on at once, blinding the audience. This is in reference to "Rap Song Tutorial," an experimental song from the group's latest release, where the steps and process of creating a song are explained during the song itself, and use the same computerized voice for the narration. 

“Step 2, check mike.” continued the voice. “Check!” exclaimed Ritchie. “Step 3, check track.” A quick snippet of the beat from the referencing song played. “Step 4, start the show.” and with a welcoming ovation the group entered the stage.

The act started strong with an energetic performance of "Koruna and Lime", the first track from the group's recently released, self-titled debut album. The rappers and audience joined together in synchronized headbanging, both rappers dreads flailing about as the intense strobe lights behind them created a choppy, disoriented visual overload.

As the assault of aggressive songs such as “What’s Goodie” and “Oh Shit!!!” played, moshing and jumping were far from absent. You could literally feel the floor of the venue flex with the crowd while jumping to the appropriately named “GTFU.” Ritchie also gave a profound presentation of “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe” that ended with him laid out on floor, giving the final shouts to the songs scream as he punched the ground furiously.

Even the more tranquil songs such as “Washed Up” and “S On Ya Chest” received an upbeat makeover that brought a new intensity to the tunes not heard on commercial release. Fierce vocals and high pitch shrieks showcases the songs in different aspects than the usual tones.

Not all of their relaxed tracks were remixed for the insanity though. The flashing lights ceased and the mood was slowed for a moment while the trio embarked on a mellow journey that gave them, and the audience, time to calm and catch their breath. “What a Year It’s Been” and “North Pole” both garnered compelling performances by Stepa, the emotional renditions mixed with the lyrical imagery entranced the members of the crowd. Ritchie finished his verse of latter song with his hand pointed to the sky as he recited the final lyrics “And you were watching over me when I wrote this.”

Bringing the energy back up,the alternative act continued a barrage of hits from their earlier releases: mixtapes Live From the Dentist Office (2015) and Floss (2016), as well as their Drive It Like It’s Stolen EP (2017). As the hour and a half long set transpired, moments like the crowd participation on lyrics to “All This Money,” Ritchie dropping the mike and beelining into the audience during “ttktv”, and cha-cha like dancing from Stepa while “Gravy n’ Biscuits” was being sung, made the small, intimate experience resemble that of a private performance and the group seemed to think so as well.

“Thank you guys,” said Ritchie With a T. “We played Dallas and Austin, both of those shows were nearly sold out but this was the better crowd. Thank you for being with us here and making this night special”

Set List
1. Koruna & Lime
3. What's Goodie
4. Washed Up
5. Eeny Meeny Miny Moe
6. What a Year It's Been
7. Colors
8. Wax On
9. North Pole
10. Best Spot In The House
11. ttktv
12. S on Ya Chest
13. Gravy n Biscuits
14. Jawbreaker
15. All This Money
16. Oh Shit!!!
17. Jailbreak The Tesla
18. Three Man Weave

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Houston Press contributor Cameron Martinez uses his extensive knowledge of headbanging and bumping into people to give readers an inside look at the city’s music scene. He often tag-teams shows with his camera-savvy wife Jennifer Lake.