Brian Jonestown Massacre Kicks Each Other's Asses; the Roots Kicks Ass

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Guess who made a surprise appearance at House of Blues Monday?
The two musical acts that descended upon Cleveland on Sunday and Monday nights proved, as if it was ever in question, that hip-hop is better than emo. On Sunday, the Brian Jonestown Massacre somehow managed to make its Grog Shop audience both furious and sleepy, with its droopy sound and the antics of its uber-arrogant frontman, Anton Newcombe. The band was featured, along with the Dandy Warhols, in the 2004 documentary Dig!, which was basically two hours of footage of Newcombe brawling on-stage with band -- and audience -- members. It included one episode where Newcombe kicked an audience member in the head from stage. The audience member, still standing and actually appearing rather refreshed, said, “Wow! He really just kicked me in the head!” as Newcombe was hauled off in handcuffs. People that keep track of such things have reported that Newcombe has cleaned up, stopped being such an asshole, and ceased fighting on stage. I suggest that, in fact, Newcombe has simply replaced all of BJM’s bandmembers with the most docile, submissive creatures to ever blow a per diem on heroin and size-zero woman’s jeans. “Frankie, every time I look over, you’re half fucking asleep,” Anton said to guitarist Frankie Emerson, who he berated all night. “I don’t pay you to get high and stand there.” Emerson, who, like all self-respecting emo rockers, flops his long hair so that it conceals his face and makes him look like McDonald’s Grimace, simply nodded and sulkily strummed his instrument. Audience members, obviously aware of Newcombe’s reputation and attempting to bait him, were booted after the slightest jeer by well-prepped bouncers. One drunk guy did manage to get kicked out six times and sneak back in to yell, “Has-been!” at Newcombe every time. Brilliant. Contrast this sad-sack festival with the love-in that rocked the House of Blues last night. Whatever the Roots, hip-hop’s greatest jam band, are getting paid for their live shows, it's not enough. Backed by the funkiest sloth in music, drummer ?uestlove, a puffy-cheeked tuba player named Tuba Gooding Jr., and the rest of the band, Black Thought and Skillz did spot-on renditions of a few of rap’s seminal hits, from Illmatic-vintage Nas to the Wu Tang Clan to Special Ed. It only went older-school from there, with appearances from MC Lyte and, later,Big Daddy Kane, who once again proved that when you’re dealing with a man this slick, you can throw out every other verb and just use the word “smooth” instead. (Kane smooths cereal for breakfast; Kane smoothed the shit out of that ball!, etc.) The 39-year-old lothario, who came dressed like he’s been in Cabos San Lucas for the last 15 years, in aviator shades and a silk shirt, upstaged his own backup dancer, hurtling his 6’3” frame around the stage and forcing the crowd — white people included — to join him in doing that 80’s staple move, “The Snake." Then came the special guest, a concept that in itself makes hip-hop better than rock. (You ever go to a Pantera concert and have AC/DC show up to do a few songs?) Toward the end of the show KRS-One bounded onto the stage like a Labrador. Having shuttled straight to H.O.B. from a speech at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, KRS was so giddy to be with the present company, he had trouble calming himself enough to perform. Throughout the show, everybody — the crowd, and all the rappers so overjoyed to see each other — congratulated everybody else for being there and being swell. Would you rather attend this show, where you left amazed at natural human energy, or the BJM show, where you left disappointed that some guy you just paid didn’t kick you in the face?* -- Gus Garcia-Roberts *If you answered, “None of the above; I’d rather listen to hard-core mariachi death rock,” you should consider becoming a music critic.
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