I only caught a handful of songs of Mad Rad's return to Neumos last night, but it was enough to answer some of the questions voiced in my column this week. First of all, of course it's unfair to compare Mad Rad to Shabazz Palaces—that was never really the point of that column. The point is simply that, in the wake of Shabazz's debut, all the so-called "third wave" Seattle hip hop acts are going to have to step their games up in a major way. And, love 'em or hate 'em, Mad Rad really do look set to step things up mightily in 2010.
The show was sold-out by 9:30 (although—and last comparison here, for real—unlike Shabazz's sold-out show two weeks ago, this one was free), and people outside said they'd seen multiple people begging and even attempting to bribe Neumos security to be let in. Inside, it was packed but not uncomfortably so, the crowd composed not of familiar faces but rather of a lot of potential new fans, and there really was a triumphantly celebratory vibe in the air, and rightly so.
"My Product," maybe the best track of the band's debut White Gold, a big, thumping stupid-fun electro banger, sounded massive on the Neumos sound system, the whole crowd pogoing and clapping along, the floor bending under the weight. Concerning the line in my column about "no more ring-tone thin synths and freshman-grade party raps," let's be clear: P-Smoov's productions are super solid, and the guys' admittedly goofy party rapping at at least a senior-year (or highly motivated drop-out) level.
And the little bit of new material I heard bodes well for the band. A new song called "Strange Love" (for which Buffalo Madonna brought onstage and ascended a ladder) sounded almost like a Depeche Mode study, Buffalo singing/screaming morosely, Terry Radjaw rapping aggressively, P-Smoov playing a buzzing synth lead and singing robotic via a glassy vocoder. DJ Darwin was, as always, grinning and hyping the crowd and hamming it up with the other members, and the guys all look like they're having such a good time up there that it's really hard not to love. They did what I think was another new song, with Buffalo again screaming over a double time, scraping drum beat and some dour minor chords, culminating with a chant of "fuck you/that's how we do." They pulled Rik Rude out for a rousing rendition of the Fresh Espresso song "Laser Beams," Rik getting the crowd chanting "out for stardom!", P-Smoov back on that vocoder. (At some point around here, beer started getting thrown around in the crowd.) They did a slow jam about "when the lights go out" (a P-Smoov solo number, I think), sounding a little Boyz 2 Men about it, like a real stab at a pop group.
I had to split after that, but that's fine. I'd come to this show with one question on my mind: Are Mad Rad ready to elevate shit in 2010? Last night, it sure as hell looked like it.