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All words: Jenn Bress

Wow, the Black Cat backstage was not packed with skinny white hipsters for once (takes one to know one), as Jel (with DJ Abilities) and THEESatisfaction hit the Black Cat backstage last night. A diverse crowd of beenied up dread heads, a large portion of the LGBT community (mostly there for Theesatisfaction) and a mix of pretty much every other demographic you can think of welcomed the performers. Lyrics from THEESatisfaction’s “Peyote Kids” describes the vibe well: “All I need is a tree and a vodka, tight beat in the heat I’m a rasta and I’m not a hipster but I’m a black star and I’m not a gansta I’m a blasta”.

Californian, producer, rapper and member of 13 and God, Jel plays live hip hop beats through a drum machine (MPC2000XL), feeds samples through it and loops them while DJ Abilities scratches and mixes on top of them. Just as I’m thinking something similar, my boy Courtney leans over and whispers to me “This (points to drum machine) is what made white boys have rhythm.”

Hipster white boy Jel’s samples genres in an addictive way, mixing old school Sugar Hill style beats into a slowed down drum and bass throbbing Fatboy Slim “Funk Soul Brother” sample. And I think it was right about now, a drunk swole brother got on stage and started doing some goofy robot dance. Jel and AJ Abilities didn’t flinch and the drunky eventually slowed his role, but the crowd was that hyped as Jel brought an unexpected and talented mass of head bobbing beats to the fine establishment.

Sub Pop Record’s THEESatisfaction headlined with a lackluster set that didn’t sit well with me. Now, before you get all pissed and stop reading, hear me out. I love what these ladies bring to the table. I’m all about their “First principle: positive energy. Black energy, black women leaping oceans and continents at a single bound. With positive strength of purpose.” Only a moron wouldn’t get behind that vibe. They produce, write and record their own music which I have nothing but respect for, but the live performance was nothing to scream about.

Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White rapped over pre-recorded songs that a shrooming Lauryn Hill might belt out in the style of Digable Planets. The vibe was chill but almost to the point of a staunch detachment. Maybe they were just really stoned. “On What it Means to Be Black,” the ladies sang in tandem, confident and soulful and I give mad props for Catherine’s radical afro and Stasia’s bright red sunglasses, though the sunglasses may have perpetuated the alienation I felt throughout the performance.

I guess they could have played up the brilliant and fun vibe that the recording of “Queens (The Internet Remix)” captures on recording. I wish there was a live DJ or a couple musicians on stage to layer in and build the mood, because for the most part, the vibe was very static. For instance during “Do You Have Time” I would have loved to see the duo banter at each other, rather than face the audience and rap out at the crowd, like they did during each song. Fans of THEESatisfaction got what they came for, a decent groove and a positive vibe.