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Check Yo’ Ponytail Tour – Spank Rock, Big Freedia, The Death Set, Pictureplane, Frankie Chan

[Mezzanine, San Francisco – Friday, October 21, 2011]Let’s get to brass tacks. I’m busy. I’m leaving for Chicago in six hours, and before I leave I have to give you a reason to go out on a Tuesday night in Denver for the Check Yo’ Ponytail Tour, since all I have to look forward to is a 4-hour return trip to San Francisco. Oh, woe is me.

You. YOU have the distinct pleasure of soaking up the best line-up I’ve seen in months. Don’t get me wrong; all I can think about tonight is the renown ivy of Wrigley Field, a fat slab of deep-dish pizza, and finding the headstone of late-great Material Issue vocalist, Jim Ellison. But that’s tomorrow…

Tonight, Spank Rock is performing at San Francisco’s Mezzanine. I’m stoked to see him (and company), having given a few rollicking, invigorating listens to their first release in five years, Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar. (Why it took so long, I can’t venture a guess, but if you haven’t given it a listen, let me assure you, the outcome is beyond stellar.)

Forewarned that I wouldn’t want to miss a beat, my crew arrives early, and I find a formidable crowd in full party-mode, already tightened-up for Los Angeles-via-Seattle DJ/promoter extraordinaire, Frankie Chan and opening act, Denver’s own Pictureplane (Travis Egedy).

I should expect awesome, as from what I’m told this tour is being handled by the steady backbone of Chan, who has paved his way as nothing shy of a promotion genius over the past decade (and then some). But I approach everything with a grain of salt–which may or may not be why I am impressed. But I’m thoroughly impressed.


 I’m psyched to see Egedy in this city, in this venue. While a bit beyond my normal threshold for the dance beat, Pictureplane nails it with honesty and a sort of one-man-band inspiration and a ‘you’re going to have fun or else’ vibe. Egedy is an awesome opening act (and don’t get me wrong, a headliner as well.)

…And now for something completely different… The Death Set (originally from Australia; now living in Brooklyn) tag in next with an onslaught of punk-rock-ified electro hardcore that snaps the crowd into a frenzy. The music is a killer twist, combining a DJ’d backdrop to a three-piece lightning speed instrumentation and and couple spry, energy-laden frontmen who’s own energy infests onlookers like a virus you want to contract. For an old man who doesn’t take kindly to new tricks, The Death Set is the coolest thing I’ve been introduced to in a long time. (Don’t let their website, which looks like it was coded in the early 90’s, fool you; these guys rock.)

Admittedly, knowing three of the five acts on the bill, I didn’t do an extensive background research. I was advised to check out the opening acts. I’m familiar with Chan, having known him from coincidental years in Seattle,and Egedy from Denver; but I didn’t place Big Freedia. I knew the name somehow… Finally, when she takes the stage, it hits me.

It’s at first just ‘eh’ when a pair of seriously booty-shaking ladies emerged on stage; but when Freedia walks on five minutes later, I know exactly what I was in for. And I am not disappointed.

Freedia is THEE gender-twist ball-buster diva from New Orleans. Not that she’s alone in his/her style of bouncin’, having dropped her first wax in 1999, lighting the South ablaze and challenging rap’s grand old straightriarch with her in-your-face and down-your-throat interpretation of the distinctively NoLa, booty-shakin’ “Bounce” style (“Sissy bounce” in Freedia’s vernacular–but don’t make the mistake that’s a diminishing moniker). She paved her way brick by brick, even persevering through the news that her partner had been murdered on the night of a performance, and still went through with the show. That shit is strength beyond human.

I learned this history through Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, which featured Freedia during Tony’s stint in New Orleans. I was impressed and intrigued; but never thought I was going to see Ms. Freedia in my fare city–much less by such an awesome surprise as this.


 Unless you’ll be made uncomfortable by the presence of a man who’s not afraid to pronounce his sexuality unabashed, you’ll probably also be as entertained as I am by the discomfort of a few gentlemen in the audience, whom, when challenged by this unforeseen presence, had no choice but to cower in caveman-like gestures of felatio and (though well into their 30’s) their best zit-faced teenager giggles. This is to be expected, even in the glorious, do-as-thou-will San Francisco. These days, it’s America everywhere. You just have to derive humor in the idiocy.

Did I mention Spank Rock?

Yes, after five years, we finally get a new dose of the Spank with Everything’s Boring….and if nothing else can rest assured the act hasn’t gone belly-up. For what it’s worth, it’s actually refreshing to have an artist take some serious time to churn out a sophomore release. People don’t realize that most artists spend half their formative years ironing out the first album they will release; but then, if attention mounts, there’s a mad rush to pump out another record. This is why 2nd LP’s tend to be a total disappointment; the proverbial slump, if you will. The group is pressured by its label to be a Play-do Fun Factory of music, when there isn’t even the tumultuous emotional turmoil that it takes to inspire an album. For Spank Rock, this is the first release on their own label, Bad Blood, and following on the distant heels of Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo, it’s everything one would hope it would be. This album kicks bass hard, and articulates lyrics so raw and sexy, it’s hard to imagine anything disappointing could ever come of this conglomeration.

Tonight’s set rock crowd classics from 2006’s Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo, and is interspersed with singles from Everthing

Our favorites rank with “Car Song” (featuring Santigold), “Energy,” which was first hyped with the new album’s release by Pitchfork Media, and “Nasty,” which brings Freedia and her ass-shaking go-go girls back to the stage for a last hoorah.

I command you to check this party out, or you will regret your lazy, slothen self forever. Seriously. Get off your ass and enjoy this line-up.

You’re lucky to have the chance.


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