Last Thursday, Oct. 6, I arrived at the office to a computer whose hard drive had spontaneously combusted overnight, taking several important pieces of work with it. Later, I waited an hour for a cab that never arrived while dealing with some random dude who decided that my job was to let him into a locked office building, then wanted to know why I'd looked at him weird.
So I'd like to thank Portland rappers Lifesavas for making me actually smile for the first time that day. I arrived late to see them open for the Coup at Neumo's. This lateness was partly intentional, but it had nothing to do with either band—after the day I'd had, I didn't feel like going out at all, and the only thing that made me was a looming deadline. That was my mood when I walked in on tall, dreadlocked Vursatyl and short, round Jumbo the Garbageman party-chanting to a half-full house; it took roughly five minutes for me to remember an old rule that I forget too often: You will almost always have a better time going to a show than you will not going to one. Over some of the most effervescent beats in the field (produced largely by Jumbo and spun by DJ Rev. Shines), the duo made old-school-style call and response (Lifesavas: "We got love for you/Who got love for us?" Crowd: "We got love for you!") sound like they'd just found it sitting there, unused, and wanted to share it with everyone. And everyone responded—as small as the crowd was (200 tops), just about everyone was full-on enthusiastic, jumping and yelling and attentive.
The other reason I arrived late is that the headliners are almost sickeningly easy to write about. The Coup's Boots Riley is a self-avowed Communist, and their last album, 2001's Party Music, garnered loads of controversy by posing Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress in front of an exploding Twin Towers. (The album's original intended release date, Sept. 11, didn't help. The cover art was revamped and the release delayed two months.) Party Music was recently reissued by Epitaph, which releases the Coup's next album, Pick a Bigger Weapon, early next year.
Pam the Funkstress stayed home for the Neumo's show, where Riley was backed by a female singer named Silky and a guitar-bass-drums trio, who recast the Coup catalog, frequently by adopting other artists' tricks. One new tune had Riley rhyming over the vamp from Prince's "Soft and Wet" (Riley also interpolated the chant from Prince's "Sexuality" into another new song, "Show Your Ass"), while Party Music's"Ghetto Manifesto" rode the riff of OutKast's "So Fresh, So Clean." The highlight was a rockish "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO." If Lifesavas hadn't cheered me up, this would have. After all, when things go wrong, blame the power structure—it's simple, fun, and usually accurate.