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Sounds Good Live » Boyuan Gao

Mayer Hawthorne and the County - Sounds Good Live! (Plus a Modern Day Barbershop Quartet!)

Mayer Hawthorne and the County made their New York debut at Santos Party House this Tuesday for Beyond Race Magazine’s 3rd year anniversary celebration. After a weekend of DJ gigs at APT and a Fader party with Benji B, Mayer Hawthorne (one of Andrew Cohen’s many aliases) and The County poised themselves in all seriousness on the stage with the theatrics of a band in much the same vain as back in the day when performances meant more than self-gratifying banging of instruments and stomping on a stage. Retro soul music must be accompanied by retro soul performance standards, i.e. quality entertainment made for audiences, whereby The County made a full delivery.

Uniformity, perfectly timed instrumental cues, and harmonizing vocals from all of the band members to accent Mayer’s dreamy falsetto are fantastically formulaic elements of Stonesthrow’s newest inductees. Remember again that there was an equation that was foolproof back in Motown’s heyday.

A suburban white boy in a cardigan singing the type of music that your parents made-out to when they were young whipper snappers (not my parents, because they were communists in China listening to red army jingles), makes just as much sense as his single “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” being an irresistibly romantic breakup song, but all of the other cards are laid out right. When he hit that first note, I saw a few grown-ass men in the audience get that misty eye, especially when he played that little xylophone of his. Other notables were “Maybe So, Maybe No”, and a climactic finale of “Love is Alright” inspiring a collective handclap experience. This live performance will be marked in history books as an authoritative breakthrough in preparation for the drop of “A Strange Arrangement” debut LP due out this fall. I bet you’ll want this one on vinyl. 

- Boyuan Gao


Q-Tip x Central Park = Ya’ll Missed The Diddy Dance at Summerstage (By Diddy Himself!)

Giant Step Summerstage!

The Abstract surprised us all with his last solo album—an all refreshing, genuine, and love inspired answer to the lost years in between the disbanding of Tribe and hip-hop’s metastasizing void. This performance was beyond bananas, not only because Q-Tip went in with everything out of his trick bag from “Getting Up” (from The Renaissance) to “Scenario” (circa 1991 A Tribe Called Quest), but that the majority of the audience could spit 90% of the lyrics to almost perfect precision. That in itself is the movement.

There is something comfortably cathartic about the collective recognition of a song—but that there were many ranging from “Bonita Applebum” to “Award Tour”, to (my personal all time favorite) “Find a Way”—proved most satisfactorily that Tip is not only an icon, but a unifying public figure in a way much more profound than most people ever envisioned a product and representative of hip-hop could become. On “Scenario”, Q-Tip demanded that the intro be replayed, and paused, over and over until he could see the felt necessity of the crowd to hear him play that track. And when they were finally ready, it was over.

A sea of hands dropping with the bass was seen throughout the entire stretch of the lawn. Q-Tip (accompanied by burley body guards) worked his way into the crowd. This is an example set to all of the young cats out there. Hip-hop is the unification of the performer and the audience. After he prohibited text messaging from happening in the middle of his song, with all eyes fastened on him, and all ears in the moment, the real moral of this story is that for a second, we were reminded to put faith back in the strength of hip-hop (as well as being reminded by a stage cameo that Diddy still can’t dance).

-Boyuan Gao


Little Dragon Tears Down LPR!





Swedish electronica/soul outfit Little Dragon kicked off the weekend with an abbreviated set at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village on Friday night, the first part of a two set extravaganza continuing Saturday afternoon at the Summer Stage Giant Steps showcase featuring Q-Tip. Freedom party’s typical grown and sexy old school crowd was for once superceded by a wave of geeked out obscure music aficionados, lungs open, and lips perched for a sing-a-long to snippets of Little Dragon’s self titled 2007 debut album. The signature minimalist beats; undulating bass, and creamy vocals embodied all reasons why Little Dragon is a needle in the haystack of unimaginative music oversaturating our existences.


From November 2008 Show at LPR

The Friday night finale that was a medley of “Wink”, and crowd obsessed over “Constant Surprises” were delivered as crisp and sexy as one could ask for. Lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s seemingly self-conscious poise, flanked in between her three-burley Swedish bandmates, was as visually theatrical, as aurally penetrating. Similarly at Saturday’s performance, a graceful and gradual warm up lead to a the climax of Nagano’s body-thrashing throw-down at the end of the set, destroying the cymbals off of her tambourine, and sending them projectile style into the crowd as mementos of a gangsta performance.    


-Boyuan Gao