All words and video: Jade Salazar
All photos: Nick Balleza
If you didn’t leave the Astronautalis show this past Thursday drunk, sweaty, impassioned, and inspired to take all those chances in life you’ve been too afraid to take…then we weren’t at the same show.
The performance this past week at DC9 was epic. Now, for the record, I am not one of those people who uses the word “epic” to describe every Saturday night or hilarious YouTube video. When I use the word epic, I’m talking about some next level, other world, Odyssey type of experience. Like promised, it was like church but with more whiskey.
This whole review began as a pipe dream with Nick Balleza at 3am, sitting under the stars on the roof of my shed, talking about life. I had yet to even ask off of work but knew that my favorite musician was finally coming into town and I had to make it happen. Nick told me he would put his bid in to photograph the show and maybe I could come with and write the review. I was ecstatic simply by the idea. “What if you got the chance to interview him?!” A long pause. We both laugh (see last Thursday’s post of my interview with Andy). So, needless to say, this week has been a whirlwind of excitement. It was finally the day of the show. Nick picked me up and we drove into DC screaming every lyric from “This is Our Science” at the top of our lungs while sitting in traffic.
We arrive at DC9 around 9pm to make sure we catch Educated Consumers. The show was running a little late but the doors opened pretty quickly. I made a beeline for the merch table where I finally got an Astro shirt and then another beeline for the bar where I got my jack on the rocks. I grabbed a spot directly in front of the microphone and declared to Nick, “I’m not moving from this spot until the end of the show.” After meeting other fans around me and multiple conversations about a mutual love for hip hop, Educated Consumers took the stage.
Now, I had seen Andy’s post on facebook telling his fans to make sure and catch this opening act because he had hand-picked them. As soon as they took the stage, I could easily see why. With all the genres that Astro traverses, Educated Consumers quickly reminded everyone that we were at a rap show. And a damn good one, at that. This duo caught me completely off guard with their impressive beats and raw lyrics. Their style made me feel like I was sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn with Eyedea and A Tribe Called Quest. This influence became apparent near the end of their set with a tribute to Eyedea.
I got a chance to talk to Seez Mics after the show and he was not only the nicest guy, but also gave me a copy of their CD. I can’t stop listening to it and making other people listen to it. Whether you were at the show or not, this band is definitely worth checking out. You will not be disappointed.
A quick break while the band set up and finally Astronautalis took the stage. A clean-cut, charming, white guy with a twinkle in his eyes, a smile that could make any teenage girl line their room with posters, neatly combed hair, and a tucked in button down–that just happened to be covered in an array of tattoos.
He opened with “The River, The Woods” and both he and the crowd erupted in a burst of energy. From there, it was back to back songs from his new album, This is Our Science which only came out in September but everyone knew all the words to. “This next song is gonna be a loud one.” Nick and I looked at each other and smiled. I wrote “Dimitri Mendeleev” in my notes before the first chord even started. The crowd went crazy. From now on, when I want to introduce someone new to his music, that will be the song I start with. It’s mind-blowing. He let everyone catch their breath while he played Midday Moon and then started into the older albums.
He told us a story about how the next song was about almost dying in a car crash as the car he was in was about to spin off a bridge while he was sitting next to a girl that he liked but had never even tried to kiss. “Spoiler Alert: I lived.” Then how that experience gave him a new lease on life and his fear to go for what he wanted quickly dissipated and then started to play, “Short Term Memory Loss”–a song I’ve heard a million times and have loved for years but got to experience in a whole new light after finally knowing the story behind it.
Andy gave the crowd two rules for the following song. 1. Go ape shit. 2. Go ape shit respectfully and make sure not to elbow any of the small statured women in the eyes. A request I was beyond thankful for. He begins to play “Trouble Hunters” and the crowd explodes into a sing-a-long. Playing this song would have been enough, but the climax of the show happened midway through when he ran off stage and played the entire second half of the song from the middle of the audience amongst a mosh pit of happy fans.
He finished the song and climbed back on stage to take off the button down and catch his breath. We all caught our breath. Next was the freestyle. One of Astro’s signatures is taking random topics from the crowd and creating a freestyle on the spot. People threw out topics that included Mother Russia, Willie Nelson, Space Jam, and Slowly But Surely Becoming A Lobster. I was slightly sad that he didn’t fit ballroom dance in, being that it’s my livelihood and passion, my science if you will, and all I’ve ever wanted is to hear someone rap about ballroom dancing.
However, my disappointment was quickly shaken off when he started his elaborate freestyle about waking up to realize he was slowly, but surely becoming a lobster. The whole audience cheered and silently thanked the kid in the orange hat for such a ridiculous topic. He freestyled for six minutes.
He began the next song by telling us there are a lot of friends on his new album and they aren’t here tonight, but we’re all his friends so hopefully we can help him sing along. He started to play “Contrails”. Now, being that Tegan Quin is my dream woman, after watching her hilarious discussions with Liz Feldman time and time again, I would absolutely die if she would have been able to join him for this song. However, I think we did a good job filling in.
Next was “Holy Water” where we were told the only words we needed to know were “AAAAHHHHHHHHH”. A break for band introductions. Naturally, Andy Bothwell as Astronautalis, Oscar Romero on guitar (who seemed to have a pretty strong fanbase of his own), Chris Reisman (Nobs) on the drum machine/sampler, and “Shoeless” Derrick Gierhan on the drums.
It was time for the last few songs. He played “Secret on Our Lips”, then a song that I forgot to write down and couldn’t remember because I was on some next level “kid at a candy factory” type of high by that point. Though I did ask around and was told it was everything from “The Case of William Smith” to “Life The Curse”. We may never know. Then finally, it was time for the last song. “I’m going to play this song, then go change my shirt because this one is fucking gross. Then I’m coming back out to the merch table so we can all high five each other and say hello.”
He ended with “Wondersmith And His Sons”. We used every ounce of energy we had left, which was surprisingly a ton, and sang along. The show ended with a burst of cheers while Andy slipped off stage. I looked around and heard reactions from a million fans. People who have been following him for years. Nick, who although having heard his stuff a few years ago just recently fell in love, other friends we had seen before the show and convinced to come out, and even my roommate Ben. I had burned a CD for him earlier that day and said, “Listen to this CD. DC9. Show starts at 9.”
He made it at 9:30 but still got to catch the entire show. Everyone was raving about the performance. “This is the best show I’ve seen in DC in a really long time.” “I go to multiple shows a week and just became a fan, and that is easily in my top 3 shows of the year.” “I’m so glad I came out! That was incredible!” “AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!! THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!” -that last one was me.
The show wrapped up with an autographed CD, a hug, and a picture with Astronautalis himself and a few drinks at the rooftop bar. Nick and I could not stop talking about it and about his music as we reviewed all of his 700 photographs. Not only was this show a chance for me to experience my favorite musician live for the first time, it has also been the catalyst for so many of my friends finally digging into his music after years of me talking about it and an entire week of me blowing up their newfeeds with status updates and youtube videos. Finally, I get to be surrounded by Astro fans every day. Being that I’m just one person in that crowd, I cannot even imagine what the turnout will be like the next time he graces this good town with his charming presence.
- The River, The Woods
- This is Our Science
- Thomas Jefferson
- Measure The Globe
- Dimitri Mendeleev
- Midday Moon
- Short Term Memory Loss
- Trouble Hunters
- Holy Water
- Secret on our Lips
- Me too excited to take notes
- Wondersmith And His Sons