In these days of constant Twitter thoughts and Facebook RIPs, I felt it was only fitting not only to sit on my reflections of my past weekend at the Sacramento Electronic Music Festival, but to wait on the death of Adama Yauch, who passed away due to complications relating to his throat cancer this weekend.
When I found out, I had been sitting in my car listening to the radio; how I found out was because stations that normally do not broadcast Beastie Boys songs, such as our local top for hip hop and pop stations, were blasting songs such as ‘Brass Monkey’, ‘Paul Revere’ and ‘Fight For Your Right to Party’. Immediately I suspected foul play was afoot. It only took one stop to Facebook to discover the evidence of his death. Send-ups had already been written, RIPs and memes posted. It was hard, really, to miss the passing of the emcee that called himself MCA.
This, of course was Saturday. Friday, the night before, I had attended the first night of the Sacramento Electronic Music Festival. Day one was, in my mind, the highlight of the festivities and a fantastic success.
If you don’t understand the layout of Harlows/the Momo Lounge, there is a main room, a back patio, and Momo’s is upstairs in a sort of classier, less attended area. Most of the main events were attended were in the main room. I arrived to a stellar performance by Doom Bird, was treated to the fine stylings of Paper Pistols featuring a full band, the unfettering beats of Jonwayne put a nice smile on my face just before Dusty Brown melted it off. Though, I spent much less time checking out the upstairs stage (I did, however, catch a nice set by El Indio of World Hood, and checked out some of the sweet art installations upstairs), I did enjoy the smattering of locals hanging out discussing the Sacramento electronic scene while enjoying a Red Bull (sponsors of the event) and vodka.
The next night was a bit more raw. Following the death of MCA, I was treated to the biggest travesty of SEMF. While sitting in the patio, the resident patio deejay proceeded to do a tribute to his death: a NIN song. I couldn’t believe my ears. Not only was I not familiar with the record-spinner sporting white hipster sunglasses and singing behind enough reverb to kill a herd of cattle, but NIN?? What does that have anything to do with the death of one of the most prolific emcees of the past twenty years.
When I first came into contact with the voice of Adam Yauch, I was sixteen years old. When I was in high school in Montana, I used to skip class in the afternoon to smoke weed in my car. My friends and I would go to the cemetery, drive around and listen to cassette tapes while we would get high, and since I had such a small collection of albums, my friend Steve would bring along tapes for us to listen to: The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack, Goodie Mob’s ‘Soul Food’, and Beastie Boys’ ‘License to I’ll’.
The album was perfect for the little pot smoker that I was. I remember the bass coming through my shitty little speakers when ‘Paul Revere’ would come on; I hardly knew the lyrics, but would sing along nevertheless. I didn’t buy another Beastie Boys album, however, until Hello Nasty. I remember when MCA and the Boys began to get spiritual, and MCA became a Buddhist. I remember buying the Tibet Freedom Concert album, which featured hip hop and electronic acts such as Cibo Matto and De La Soul. Had I not been exposed to such amazing acts back then, I doubt my love for the discovering of unique and experimental acts might not have endured. This is all without mentioning the Beastie Boys work with The Dust Brothers on Paul’s Boutique, which systematically led not only to the start of true sampling in hip hop and electronic music, but introduced the world not only to the Dust Brothers (thanks guys for ‘MMMbop’ and Beck’s ‘Odelay’, along with the Fight Club soundtrack), but also to the idea of getting sued for copyright infringement due to sampling.
Which brings me back to the NIN cover tribute to MCA. Everything about the Beastie Boys went against everything that Trent Reznor and NIN represents. To me, NIN is the epitome of over-produced crap in the world. The Beastie Boys were the very definition of independent music. Why, even their drummer from back when they were still a punk band, Kate Schellenbach, went on to form another great act, Luscious Jackson, which owed much of their success to their connection to the Boys. I don’t think I have ever heard of Trent Reznor causing the success of another artist. The best work the man ever did was his work on the Lost Highway soundtrack, in my opinion, and I’m certain he did it for the money.
Other than that travesty, SEMF day 2 went on without much to complain about, highlighted by performances by Tha Fruitbat, Girrafage and Mux Mool. Some group called ‘El Ron’ were the most bizarre performance, but either my level of alcohol or my lack of interest caused me to both forget the bands name and most of their performance (though I remember being less than impressed), Mux Mool quickly came on and killed it with his performance.
I would like to say that I attended Day 3, but as I partied to the fullest two days in a row, my body at 31 is not capable of making a full three days it appears. This also happened back at SXSW for myself…it appears day three is my eternal day of drinking rest. As a moment of full disclosure, I will admit that I might have dragged myself out to check out Death Grips had they attended, but I would say that the lineup was killer enough that I should have attended, but I will once again stress my need for rest and just say I was bummed I missed Shlohmo and Raleigh Moncrief.
Next will be to see if I can make it through 6 days of Launch Festival without dying. Hopefully Dr. Dre doesn’t kick the bucket…I don’t know if I want to go into how much ‘The Chronic’ meant to me, and I certainly don’t want to hear any Marilyn Manson tributes to Dre.
SEMF Photos courtesy of Karen Chu