Buck 65’s Hip-Hopera @ NAC Theatre
Featured Photo: Darren Sparling
Over the past years I developed a strong relationship with Rich Terfry. Within the timeslots of R2 Drive the CBC personality had quelled my outbursts of road rage and entertained me for numerous hours driving along the Trans-Canada Highway, setting my adventure through music. Having never seen him perform as Buck 65, my friends told me “GO” and experience Rich as his alter ego. Seated up high in the NAC Theatre, I grew eager awaiting his arrival.
As the lights dimmed, a fly Buck 65 waltzed onto a pitch black stage in a slim black suit and tie. Accompanied by two microphones, a laptop, sampler and a turntable he promptly opened the show to the “Gates of Hell,” the opening track of his newly released Neverlove. Unleashing into the microphone, he brought energy into the theatre as red and blue lights danced all around him. The initial blast dissipated into “Zombie Delight” with Buck letting loose on stage, limbs flailing, parading as a mindless zombie, kept erect only by the mic stand. Several songs in he gave a brief formal introduction before continuing to unpack vacuum-sealed rhymes, “So Fresh.”
The evening’s presentation came on the heels of his new studio album Neverlove (released September 30, 2014). After 20 Odd Years, Buck’s musical experience is a vast blend of distinct audible elements with rich Canadian roots anchored by Halifax’s fabled hip hop scene. Neverlove, a departure from his early style, sees him using his lyrical abilities to express the deep emotions from his recent divorce — stepping through the “Gates of Hell” to learn how “Love Will Fuck You Up.” Infused with an electronic base, the composition of uptempo rhythms and a thumping club-style bass accompanies a melodic Buck who using his rhymes to elucidate his state of mind. In finding the key to his struggle, the album allowed Buck 65 to stretch his musical capacities and in turn developed an album that stands apart from his previous forays. Nevertheless, for those distressed to find a sombre Buck 65 can rejoice with Laundromat Boogie, an EP released a day before Neverlove in collaboration with one of Halifax’s legendary personalities Jorun Bombay. Laundromat Boogie is a comical allegory of Neverlove, explained through the art of laundering. Although the show was concentrated with songs from both albums, however he still found the opportunity to rip through his older catalogue.
The hour and a half long set saw Buck 65 in full command of the NAC theatre, with the occasional assistance of Tiger Rosa on back-up vocals — a contributor on Neverlove. For the most part he roamed the expansive stage presenting his play, a one man hip-hopera on point like a metronome, scratching, sampling, spitting bars while flashing his personal repertoire of dance moves. A consummate professional whose time spent honing his craft radiates each time he stepped to the mic, flowing with a continuous stream of beats he rode endlessly across a blend of tracks intertwining seamlessly. With command of his craft, he took control of the audience fastened in the Maxwell position. The room was quiet for the most part, with exception to Buck acolytes mouthing his words with arms in the air, but tracks like “Wicked and Weird” and “Gee Whiz” made you want to tear the seats from their place and rampage with Buck on stage. The venue befitted the mood of his Neverlove album, accentuating his abilities and providing an ample space to put on a performance as varied and creative as his music.
During the set he paused for interludes and indulged the audience with storytelling that has endeared him to listeners of R2 Drive. He admitted the venue presented a weird vibe however it was our mission to rise above it. He cracked jokes and told a story or two — most memorable an omitted excerpt from his upcoming book, expressing his adoration, as we all have, for Bob Barker and the moment he came face to face with the silver haired legend and his majestic slim microphone. Using each interlude he set the tone for the tracks to come. During the second interlude he warned us the show was about to get weird and wished to not be taken out of context, like a former colleague, right before picking the music back up with an ode to side boobs.
Along with deep emotional explorations and witty banter, hardier tracks saw Buck 65 hunched over, bobbing up and down as he spat audacious rhymes filled with the wistful rebellious nature which has forever been the cornerstone of hip-hop prior to the quest of the post-Pac/BIG throne. His style is a throwback, a combination of the stellar Atmosphere with the vocal stylings of Slug and the rhythmic mastery of Ant, with Beastie Boys/Rage Against the Machine hybrid flow and Biz Markie antics. The entirety of the performance was manic, chaotic and wildly creative — able to induce a hallucinative state through unique blends of sounds and lighting that matched his frantic pace. Not many hip-hop acts would have succeeded in such a venue, but Buck displayed nothing but utter confidence as an artist. Not holding back, he gives in to every creative impulse to explore the many facets of music, not only hip-hop, but country, blues, and R&B among others, all while maintaining his original essence — some buck from Mount Uniacke.
It felt like a trance was lifted when his impressive set ended. As he walked off stage we the audience, now addicts, grew to a raucous applause in an attempt to lure him back on stage. The crowd cheered loudly when he re-entered the room followed by Tiger Rosa to close the show with two more tracks. As he left the stage for the last time, the crowd rose to its feet to bid farewell to a phenomenal performance.
Buck 65 by Darren Sparling.
Throwback Thursday: Buck 65 at Bluesfest 2011
Photo by Blair Smith (Byward of Mouth)
One of my favourite Canadian talents, no matter the genre, will be gracing the NAC stage on Nov. 22nd. Yes the legendary Buck 65 will be in Ottawa in late November, tickets here. I thought it would be fun to resurrect an old article of mine about the time he competed with John Fogerty, a cold and swarms of bugs to deliver a most excellent performance. So here it is.
An ailing Buck 65 took to the Hard Rock stage in a grey suit, July 12th, 2011 at Bluesfest, ready to deliver.
Accompanied by the lovely Marnie Herald, he opened with “Sweet Baby.” Herald blended her beautiful voice and energy several more times on other tracks, as you can see in the video below.
Just in case you did not know who you were seeing, he let you know. “I’m the legendary Buck 65 from Mt. Uniacke, Nova Scotia,” he said with a grin before launching into “Superstars Don’t Love.”
After that he took some time to talk with the crowd. “I knew I was in trouble when I got here today. I was doing my sound check and all of a sudden clear as a bell I start hearing the familiar catalogue of Credence Clearwater Revival from over the hill. Then they tell me that Fogerty over there is going on at the same time I’m going on, so I’m thinking to myself no one is going to come see me when they can see Fogerty.”
The crowd reacted with boos and then cheers for Buck 65, and so he replied, “Hear me out, I wouldn’t be here if I were you. So I want to show you how much I appreciate that you are here when you could be over there…I can hear him real good, I wonder if he can hear us, let’s find out. I’m just asking for it now.”
This was the beginning of one of the highlights of the set, playing “Wicked and Weird” over “Run through the Jungle” by CCR. It was epic, and the crowd lost their mind when he began to scratch on the track as well.
Following up with “Dang,” and saying after, “Don’t worry, I talked to Fogerty earlier and he’ll be doing a Buck 65 song.” Afterwards he played “All There is to Say About Love”, a Bike for Three song, which is a cross continental collaboration with Belgium producer Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê.
“The doctor said I could not go to Ottawa, but to quote Ray Charles, ‘I don’t need no doctor.’ I got rained out last time and come hell or high water I was playing,” he said. “This is Bluesfest for crying out loud!” And everyone in attendance was extremely grateful he toughed it out.
Buck 65 scratching up a storm at Ottawa Bluesfest 2011. Photo: Blair Smith, Byward of Mouth
He scattered two great new songs throughout the set. One of them he wrote with fellow East-Coaster Jenn Grant, leaving this writer looking very much forward to the new album. Another one of the wonders of a Buck 65 show are his excellent scratching skills and his “amazing” dance moves, where he appears to be dancing like the inflatable Skydancers (better known as wacky waving inflatable arm flaling tube men).
Buck 65 has quite the extensive catalogue and he did not shy away from any of it on this night. He played, “Gee Whiz,” “BBC,” “Cold Steel Drum,” “Paper Airplane,” “Small Town Boy,” “Surrender to Strangeness” and “Zombie Delight.”
After “Zombie Delight” he took more time to talk to the crowd. “It’s good to see a lot of people here, some familiar faces… I don’t know if I get a cut of the gate tonight or what, I need a few extra bucks, because I did something I sorta regret earlier tonight at the hotel. I smashed the television in the room.” He then explained, “There was that commercial that came on for Miracle Whip, you know that hipster Miracle Whip, do you know these commercials. The hipster style Miracle Whip, the sandwich spread… they are trying to make this cool, of all things, so I smashed my television set tonight.”
People began throwing money up on stage for him, one overzealous fan hit him in the head. Buck 65 took back to the mic, “How do I protect myself from that? I’m going to change tactics real quick,” and he began playing “Indestructible Sam.”
He dedicated “Pants on Fire” to those who have been listening to him for more than 10 years, the fans he dubbed “the lifers.” And Buck 65 rewarded them with a mind-blowing scratch outro to his classic track. He then added, “Thanks for coming and I promise ya I gave you 100 per cent of what I had tonight which is about 75 per cent of what I normally have because I have had some sort of flu. Second of all let us skip the pretence of the encore, if you insist let’s pretend it is over now… because that whole thing is embarrassing for both of us frankly.”
The encore consisted of “The Niceness” and “Blood of a Young Wolf.” But as he left the stage the crowd continued to chant and clap. They wanted more… and even though he was sick as a dog, he took back to the stage. “Is Fogerty done over ther? I feel like it would be wrong if he wasn’t… How old is he? He can’t outlast me,” and so he played one more track as he collected the money from the stage, closing with “465.”
Record Store Day: April 20th, 2013
Dust off or tune-up your turntables, because Saturday April 20th is Record Store Day.
What is Record Store day you ask? It is an international event where bands and music labels release a limited amount of special edition, rare, unreleased and re-released material in support of record stores. A complete list of this year’s releases can be found here.
Some of my must haves include: Mumford and Sons Live from Bull Moose, The Notorious B.I.G. Ready To Die, At The Drive In Relationship of Command and Buck 65 Talkin‘ Honkey Blues. What are yours?
There are a bunch of great local record shops participating this year:
Most shops will have free food, draws or door prizes as well as sales on the go Saturday. So why not go out and score yourself some sweet vinyl while supporting a local music store.