Bluesfest Day 6: El-P, Killer Mike & A Tribe Called Red

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There is no better way to show my cousin from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts a good time than during Bluesfest. Zac & I arrived within minutes of doors opening on the night they decided to squeeze four major headliners into the last slot. If we are anything it’s easily distracted, and so we tasted them all.

But it started at the River Stage, with a rap attack. El-P, a.k.a. El Producto, wasn’t without his Brooklyn charm as he thanked all his followers who’d been with him from the beginning of his Company Flow days. We’re talking ’93 here. Killer Mike straight outta ATL performed before him and invited El-P to come along for the ride, which they did did again during El-P’s set. Eric had the pleasure of watching the first part. They both injected their tracks with crazed energy but “Sea Legs,” from their collab album Run The Jewels, was my favourite. Killer Mike brought in the chorus: “Tryin’ not to walk crooked while this anchor’s dropped / but I been out on them choppy waves and it’s hard to say where this land begins and that water stops / I got sea legs”.

We avoided some shows. I will only describe the Marianas Trench as the deepest known part of the planet’s oceans and it’s in the Pacific — where it should remain.

Without a doubt, A Tribe Called Red killed it. Eric, Matías & I drew straws on the headliners and I lucked out to find myself in the warm embrace of three hometown boys, who were ecstatic to be back from a U.S.tour. “Ottawa,” crowed DJ Shub, “it is so good to be home!” We felt the love from the three dark silhouettes of DJs Shub, NDN & Bear Witness superimposed on the screen of looped aboriginal animation and lore. Contrasting the underlit trio were three of their children dancing up a storm to the left of their turntables. Bright tracks from their title album shone through a medley of samples, quite noticeable “Electric Pow Wow Drum” and “Look At This.”

In the midst of dancing I heard Lt. Aldo Raine tell me, “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps.” The disembodied voice of Louis CK repeating European settlers’ dumbest question: “You guys are Indians, right?” and DJ NDN mouthing “No…” while DJ Shub dropped a resounding beat. Actually DJ NDN was our lip-synching maestro, Shub was our MC, and Bear Witness did just that, with headphones askew, watching his brothers with a quiet that must be characteristic. It was, in a word, solid.

Certainly a good way to introduce a 14-year-old to a city that I’m proud to show off and a good reminder that ATCR play every second Saturday at Babylon. Long live the Electric Pow Wow!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEZIUVFKHyk

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