i've been a huge fan of kool keith ever since i first saw the video for dr octagon's "blue flowers" on mtv's amp back in the day, so when i learned that "dr octagon" was scheduled to play the vogue as part of this year's MMS, i knew i had to attend.
virago & i started the evening off at bazbeaux in broad ripple, where we had some pizza with an incan-sounding name that i can neither pronounce or remember. it wasn't bad, but i've had tastier pizzas at bazbeaux.
after dinner, we walked to the vogue and arrived shortly before the twilight sentinels went onstage. we had cheked out their myspace page beforehand and been underwhelmed by the mp3s there, but we were already at the vogue, and were parked a couple blocks away, so we just bought some $4 woodchucks and settled in, finding a place to sit.
the twilight sentinels put on a serviceable performance, playing some stuff that sounded harder and more uptempo than what i'd heard on myspace, but their set was marred by something that affected the whole night: muddy sound. perhaps this was merely an artifact of where we were sitting, and the sound would have been crisper if we'd been front and center, but from our seats at least, it was sometimes difficult to make out what the mcs were saying, and the backing music sounded somewhat washed out. the sound wasn't terrible—i've definitely heard worse—but the effect was like listening to the radio from across a large room; there was some mean reverb in there.
next up came the seminal indy hip-hop group the mudkids. now here was a group i had definitely wanted to see, and they put on a strong show. russ sported a t-shirt bearing the image of beloved local photojournalist mpozi tolbert, who died suddenly earlier this summer, exhorting us to make some noise in mpozi's honor. (the crowd happily obliged, though i'm sure a sizable chunk of the crowd was not tuned-in enough to the local hip-hop scene or the indiana blogosphere and had no idea what he was talking about.)
dr octagon was scheduled to take the stage at 9:15pm, so around 9:20 or 9:25, kutmasta kurt took the stage. i'd been wondering who would accompany keith during this show, as i doubted it would be the european production team one watt sun (website still down!), who produced the latest dr octagon album. kutmasta kurt was a good choice: though he wasn't heavily involved with either of the "dr octagon" records (he produced two tracks for octagonecologyst), he is a talented dj and producer who produced several of kool keith's best records, including sex style, dr dooom's first come, first served, and the recent diesel truckers release. unfortunately, with the muddy sound in the vogue, i didn't actually catch on to the fact that this dj was kutmasta kurt until sometime later.
kool keith wasn't ready to take the stage yet, so kurt warmed up the crowd by doing scratch routines for 15–20 minutes. the scratching was excellent, but again it didn't sound as good as it should've due to the muddy-sounding PA. i was growing a little impatient waiting for keith to come onstage, but then he did, in a striped shirt and blue kangol hat.
keith and company began the set with some songs that i didn't recognize, but i imagine they were from keith's days in the ultramagnetic mc's. very little of the material performed that night was actual "dr octagon" material, but the crowd seemed happy to overlook this technicality, as, to the best of my knowledge, this was kool keith's first appearance in indianapolis. (the last time he was supposed to be here was at lollapalloza '97, when keith famously disappeared before he could begin the tour; according to legend, he blew most of his advance on pornography.)
a few songs into the set, keith asked to be cast in blue light only. the crowd got excited, and then keith & his crew performed "blue flowers", easily dr octagon's biggest hit and possibly kool keith's biggest hit as well. they immediately followed this up with kutmasta kurt's remix of "blue flowers", so keith recited all the same lyrics again over a different beat. but it was cool.
after this, the white light returned, and keith invited about a dozen ladies from the crowd to join him onstage and dance around as he serenaded them with "girl let me touch you". he then began encouraging them, in increasingly less subtle ways, to take off their clothes and get jiggy. he performed the song "take off your clothes". then he asked if any of the girls onstage were "freaks" before segueing into the song "freaks get naked". when this didn't work, he asked if any of them had ever fantasized about becoming a stipper. at least one raised her hand, and keith told her, "this is your chance!" but none of the ladies flashed so much as an inch of areola. at one point, the one black woman onstage (it was predominantly white crowd) did bend over in front of keith and shake her booty in a fashion not unlike that described in the lyrics to li'l jon's "get low", but her clothes stayed on, and that was as freaky as any of the women onstage ever got. i guess it wasn't that kind of crowd.
this left me wondering: how often does this work for kool keith? i've never been able to get the ladies to strip during my performances, but then i'm usually not playing to a crowd of hundreds of excited hip-hop fans. i have attended shows where the girls have eagerly gotten onstage and gone wild—yes, even here in indianapolis—but it wasn't meant to be saturday night at the vogue. assuming keith regularly invites the ladies of the crowd onstage and encourages them to remove their clothes, what percentage of the time do they acquiesce? i might be way off-base here, but i have a hard time believing that keith usually has this much difficulty getting the women at his shows to show some skin. there's no real way to test this, other than to follow him around on his next tour, though i plan to browse the live kool keith vids on youtube. but assuming i'm right, what was different about this crowd? my theory is that the relatively early showtime was a factor: the vogue has a popular saturday night dance night, and wasn't willing to give that up even for kool keith. if dr octagon had gone onstage closer to midnight, the crowd might've been drunker and more willing to get naughty. there was an after-party at the jazz kitchen, which we didn't attend, and for all i know, the honeys got totally wild there.
anyway, the ladies remained onstage, fully clothed and dancing in the background, for the rest of the show. keith and crew performed several other songs from keith's large discography, engaging the crowd in call-and-response and generally rocking the house. but the dance night crowd was building up outside, and it was time for the show to end. i don't remember what song they played for the finale. afterward, kutmasta kurt sold cds from the stage for the discount price of $10. i had $10 left in my wallet, so i went up front to get a peek at what he was selling, knowing that i probably owned most of it. i ended up with a copy of overproof by substance abuse, which only has a brief appearance by kool keith on one track, but is exec produced by kutmasta kurt and also has appearances by mf doom, motion man, and others.
overall, it was a good show, but it suffered from unsatisfactory sound quality. i don't know what went wrong there, as i've been to the vogue several times and don't remember having issues with the sound quality before. also, it would be nice to see kool keith play at a venue where he's allowed to play for longer than an hour, and where the crowd isn't being shuffled off to an after-party at another venue. i understand that tease is a lucrative dance night for the vogue, but the effect of trying to squeeze two events into the same night only hurts both events: the concert ends up feeling rushed, whereas the dance night patrons are stuck waiting outside long after the doors would have normally opened. pick one event and commit to it! ¶