Review and Photos: Nag Champa, Abdu Ali, Elon w/ Dylijens, Br’er, DJ Ayes Cold @ The Pinch 3.5.16
I’ve managed to make it out to a few local shows a week in D.C. for the past few years. So believe me when I tell you that Saturday’s DCDIT show at The Pinch was one of the most effecting, powerful and outrageous shows I’ve ever been to.
At one point in the night, Baltimore’s Abdu Ali declared “fuck genres, I’m tired of genres.” And while he was referring to his own blend of rap, punk and hip-hop, the sentiment was one that loomed over the whole night. Despite the disparate sounds of each act on the lineup, they all shared a level of intensity and brash confrontation in the face of establishment and authority.
D.C.’s Br’er opened the show with an aggressive electronic set that tackled, most notably, gentrification and the growing disparity of class in this city. When vocalist Ben Schurr broke down mid-song to scream “fuck you D.C.,” no one in the room felt this was aimed at them. Instead, as musicians operating outside the norms of mainstream culture, the message resonate with exact ferocity.
Elon (stylized :3lON), an R&B singer-songwriter from Baltimore, performed next. Although his tone was not the dark, industrial noise-pop of Br’er, his performance was just as physical and emotional. He and DJ Dylijens showed off an array of futurist beats and immensely danceable jams that dealt with isolation, identity and Elon’s own unmatched arsenal of dance moves. He somehow managed to move and fail incessantly without any loss of control and style, eventually tearing off a chunk of The Pinch’s ceiling with endearing poise.
Next was Abdu Ali, whose previously mentioned, genre defying hip hop/punk rap was a visceral, unforgiving statement on identity, politics and race. But despite the weight of these subjects, the entire venue was dancing in a frenzy by the end of his set. Like Elon and Br’er, Abdu Ali gave an unrestrained performance, one that enforced the power of his words. I highly recommend giving his tracks “Flat Out” and “I’m Alive” a listen.
Nag Champa closed out the night with a slightly more subdued, but no less cerebral set of jazz and trip-hop. Paired with projected visuals from the media collective CMPVTR CLVB, the group showed off their talent for collaboration, featuring various vocalists and hip hop artists backed by the unflinching talents of drummer Allen Jones and saxophonist Elijah Easton. Their passion for arts in D.C. was not to be ignored, as Jamal Gray told the crowd repeatedly “this is not new.” And he’s right–this kind of musical and artistic intensity has always been boiling just under the surface in D.C. If Saturday night’s show was any indication, it’s only getting stronger, and prouder and louder.