LIVE REVIEW: The Mind Creatures, Grand Prize Winners From Last Year, Jack Preston and the Dojo Collective at the Earl

Jack Preston
Jack Preston photo by Bruno Nguyen

Dear hip hop,

We need to have a serious discussion. I’ve been in love with your diverse sounds since I was kid. I recall picking up my first rap record when I was eight years old. I purchased a copy of Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory and I was blown away by the jazzy and funked-out beats, Q-Tip’s chameleon-like flow and the beautiful soul and jazz samples utilized throughout the entire record. In that very moment, I was hooked, a cracked-out hip hop junkie going from corner store to corner store in search of the next fix.

But while hip hop and I have a really good thing going, we need to discuss the live aspect. Twenty drunk dudes onstage yelling incomprehensible words in my face, loud and droned-out beats through a crackling and shoddy PA system, little to no song transitions, half naked women dancing onstage in the hopes of getting a backstage pass (actually I can’t complain about that, but you catch my drift) — this is no way to establish an audience or build fan loyalty. The genre has certainly evolved over the past decade, but many live rap shows leave much to be desired. However, after watching the Mind Creatures and Jack Preston at the Earl last night, I feel local rappers and hip hop heads need to take note. Both of these acts are pushing the envelope when it comes to urban/hip hop shows and I feel their performances are an indicator of what the live rap show can eventually blossom into.

Jack Preston started out the night performing with his nine-piece funk and soul outfit called the Dojo Collective. I checked out Preston’s work online prior to going to the show and was surprised at how different the recordings are compared to the live material. The album has more of a traditional hip hop feel, but I heard more of the soul, funk and jazz influences from the live group. It was impressive to hear Preston synthesize the many layers and elements found on his solo material and fuse that neatly with a full band. I am a huge fan of live vocal harmonies and the Dojo Collective has three talented backup singers with entertaining dance choreography. In addition, the tripped-out sounds added by the trumpet player and DJ contributed to a more complex and rich live sound.

The next group was the Grand Prize Winners From Last Year. This group had more of an electro influence and they reminded me of Das Racist and LMFAO. Grand Prize Winners rocked out with some party numbers that appeal to the get crunk and still-partying-with-a-fake-ID crowd. I’m not the biggest supporter of that sound and ultimately found their show to be too heavily dependent on visuals and lacking in substantive content. Not my steeze, at all.

The Mind Creatures headlined the show and it was a well-deserved slot. I was blown away, not only by the level of talent from the musicians in their band, but also the professionalism and musical presentation of the entire show. The transitions between songs were very organic and natural, nothing felt forced or pushed upon the listener. Mind Creatures played a heavy, hard funk/rock set in the vein of bands like Soulive and even Rage Against the Machine, but they also had slower numbers which were a bit more free and relaxing. I felt their song “Centrifuge” was one of the best in their entire set; it’s a very catchy tune, but pushes the envelope in terms of its layered sounds and smart arrangement. Overall, the energy coming off the stage was frenetic and contagious. The band really locked in tight at this show and, although I hadn’t really heard much of this band before last night, I definitely plan to catch them again in the future.

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