I just looked it up: I’ve been covering the hip-hop of Amsterdam — aka Bend’s Gabe van Eikeren — since the summer of 2006, both as a solo artist and as part of his groups The Cool Table and Top Shelf. (He even did a short-lived tour blog and NBA Finals previews for Frequency back in the day!)
So it was weird back in February when he put out a new solo album called “Avarice” and I didn’t write a thing about it. I have a good excuse — I was home full-time with a 5-month-old baby — but still … I like what this dude does (increasingly so in recent years), so ignoring it didn’t feel right.
Anyway, I didn’t have to wait long to follow up. Early in July, Amsterdam released “Aurora,” another album of heart-on-sleeve raps that veer back and forth between self-deprecating angst and tongue-in-cheek-ish arrogance. If you only have time for one song, click forward to track 3, “Here & Now,” which features a buzzy, jumbled beat by Khrysis. But I’d suggest listening all the way through.
And here’s “Avarice,” which ain’t old news, y’all. It’s only five months old! Give ‘er a spin.
Speaking of Bend-based rappers, Cloaked Characters’ Jay Tablet — who will perform at The Astro Lounge tomorrow night — just dropped a free seven-track EP ahead of the release of his new solo album “Tablife,” scheduled for August. As is usually the case with JT, the free EP sounds like soundtrack to an after-party where eclectic beats and a mellow vibe are favored. Check it. And then look for more on Tab when “Tablife” drops.
It feels like locally based MC (and Cloaked Character) Jay Tablet has been quiet over the past several months, although quiet time for this one-man hip-hop whirlwind is about equal to everyone else’s busy time. Regardless, after a winter spent in the lab and on regional tours with other folks, the Tab is back with his new mixtape “White City,” which drops today. (On Saturday, he’ll do a release show in Bend. See details below and watch his Twitter and Facebook for more info.)
At 18 tracks and only 34 minutes, “White City” is a collection of quick-hit tracks produced by Dead Giveaway, a Southern Oregonian who specializes in cool, cinematic beats that pair nicely with Tab’s husky, after-the-afterparty flow. Here’s the story, from Tab’s Soundcloud:
Jay Tablet and Dead GiveAway Beats met through the net and connected from the first song. After touring Jay Tablet felt the need to explode in the lab on some feel good, old school, underground, hip hop ish. Exactly 1 month and 18 tracks later, they present to you “White City” … This project was based on a pure “Go with the GUT” type of production. Hope you can relate to the honesty and creativity as this duo delivers (their) combined styles to the masses.
Frankly, I’ve heard a lot of Tab/Cloaked music over the past several years, and it’s super refreshing hearing him rap over something different. And I don’t know much about Dead Giveaway, but I do know that his tracks have a sort of halcyon haze that’s not too far off from the work of white-hot hip-hop producer Clams Casino. And that’s a good thing.
Also in the music section: King Yellowman returns to town, the Tower of Power show is sold out, guitar hero Scott Pemberton plays Silver Moon, a cappella groups On the Rocks and Divisi will perform to benefit Sisters schools, Celtic folkie Colleen Raney kicks off the new HarmonyHouse season, a Tumalo house concert will benefit the High & Dry Bluegrass Festival, and Innovation Theatre features an eclectic weekend, with Violin vs. Vinyl and Jay Tablet tonight, 2Mex and a hip-hop bill Saturday and 2nd Hand Soldiers playing a benefit for a local guy with cancer on Sunday. Oh, plus we have blurbs on Stephanie Schneiderman, Just People and Viva Le Vox!
And while you’re waiting for that to download, check out the video Tablet put out a while back for “What If I.” The clip — directed by Pete Alport — features gorgeous shots of Oregon’s natural beauty (Steens Mountain, Painted Hills, Mount Bachelor, Tumalo Falls), plus a verse by Mosley Wotta.
Hip-hop legend Ice Cube rolls into Bend’s Midtown Ballroom on Wednesday! In this week’s GO! Magazine, I make the case for why you shouldn’t turn your nose up at a chance to see the man, given his enormous influence on rap music over the past 20 years.
After “The Predator” (plus his increasing interest in film work), Cube’s musical dominance waned, no doubt about it. But hindsight provides perspective on the importance of Ice Cube’s stint with N.W.A. and his first three solo albums, which, along with fellow gangsta rap pioneer and N.W.A. alum Dr. Dre, ushered in an era of hip-hop that valued gritty street tales and speaking truth to power over, say, a pair of glittery parachute pants. It was an era that would reign for nearly 15 years, until Kanye West came along and spawned a generation of emotive, Auto-Tune-happy singsong rappers like Drake and Kid Cudi.
These days, Ice Cube sounds like a man intent on securing his legacy. His 2010 album is called “I Am the West” and on the chorus of its lead single, “I Rep That West,” Cube defends himself against those who criticize his career arc and reminds us he’s a “hall of famer” in the rap game.
That’s understandable, but unnecessary. Ice Cube doesn’t need to apologize for being a fortysomething dude who has made a ton of cash in his lifetime and can no longer rap knowledgeably about life on the streets.
Sure, the game has passed him by. But it also owes him so much in terms of style, culture and history, thanks in large part to a hyper-productive, ultra-creative five-year stretch more than two decades ago. Even in 2011, the man deserves respect for that.
Speaking of legends, yes, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck plays bass for The Baseball Project, and yes, the baseball-themed band is coming to Silver Moon on Thursday. But the Project is the brainchild of pop-rock lifers Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), two super-fans of our national pastime. I caught up with McCaughey shortly after the band wrapped up its tour of spring training sites in Arizona.
GO!: Because of the subject material, is The Baseball Project more fun than your other, non-baseball bands?
SM: I can’t say one’s more fun than the other because of course we love playing our other songs as well, but this is a whole different thing. In a way it’s sort of a relief … to write about another subject. Even though some of the songs end up being personal, a lot of them are also just sort of writing in the folk tradition, the oral tradition of recounting a story or reciting a ballad or whatever, which is a lot different from what Steve and I write normally. So it’s kind of refreshing. I like it. Sometimes I get so into it that it makes it hard to tune back into writing a song about my boring life or whatever.
I will say, though, (at the spring training gigs) I found myself really kind of getting lost in some of these songs … so I felt pretty good about that. They weren’t just exercises in cleverness or something like that. I think they have some emotional weight. At least it feels like it to me when I sing some of ‘em. We’ve been writing songs for so long that we have … a certain standard that we hold ourselves to. Just because these songs are about baseball doesn’t mean that they don’t have to be good songs.
Local fave folk singer The White Buffalo returns to Bend this weekend for a two-night stand at Silver Moon Brewing & Taproom. I spoke with the Buffalo — aka Jake Smith — about his early, frustrating days as a musician in San Francisco.
“Nothing was really happening for me,” (Smith said). “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to get gigs. I didn’t know how to even think about making a CD.
“I would write songs and … I wanted to play music, but I was not very confident as a performer and I played like once a year,” he continued. “I’d call people on the phone, and they wouldn’t ever call me back.”
Undaunted, Smith took a more primitive approach to booking shows.
“I started playing songs into the phone, and then I would get calls back and I would start getting gigs,” he said. “I would try to rock like 30 seconds of something, and then I’d say, ‘This is The White Buffalo. Call me back.’ And I’d leave my phone number.”
“That actually worked every time I did it,” Smith said. “That was my press kit.”
You should click here to read all about a guy who plays to sell-out crowds pretty much every time he comes to town.
(Video of Marty Stuart & the Fabulous Superlatives at the Tower Theatre by YouTube user tdworak.)
For my Feedback column this week, I wrote about last week’s outstanding show at the Tower Theatre by country traditionalist Marty Stuart and his band. Spoiler alert: I thought it was the first great local show of 2011.
Honestly, my jaw was on the floor throughout most of the night. From the minute the quartet walked on stage — Stuart in a black suit (embroidered with flowers) and a turquoise scarf, his band mates in glittery, head-to-toe turquoise suits and all-white boots — this was a show so tight, so smooth, so perfect, it was like watching a video of a band that had been rehearsed and re-shot and edited until all mistakes were eliminated. Except this was live, right in front of my eyes.
Not a note out of place. Not a hair out of place. Devastatingly gorgeous harmonies swooping through the air. White-hot guitar playing as far as the eye could see. Big smiles, charming winks, witty banter. And a selection of wonderful songs, perfectly paced.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Moira Smiley & VOCO wrap up the Sisters Folk Festival’s Winter Concert Series, the popular 80s Video Dance Attack returns to the Domino Room, a big rap show on Sunday night will serve as local MC Jay Tablet’s CD-release party, local musicians get together in Sisters to raise money for Jim Bull, and a couple of University of Oregon a cappella groups visit Bend High School. Plus, ska/reggae dudes The Supervillains play The Summit and California power-poppers Bright Faces are at JC’s Bar & Grill.
Plenty to do out there, folks! What are you gonna go see?
Bend rapper and Cloaked Character Jay Tablet is “3/4 done” with his solo album “Put It On The Tab,” he says, so yesterday, he dropped a free, 12-song collection called “The Prefunk Mixtape” to build buzz and satiate those waiting for the official solo debut.
“I’ve had these songs just sitting around and wanted them to be heard,” Tablet said via Facebook chat, of course. “Some freestyles and some unfinished, but it’s out!”