Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Real Clash of the Titans
Thursday, November 15th 2012
St. Petersburg College Music Center, FL

In some rock scenes, the concept of 'Battle of the Bands' has taken a nosedive in acceptability over the years.  This is due to a general belief that musicians should not be competing.  Hip hop, on the other hand, has always had an internal dynamic of competition built in from it's earliest days.  But could that now also be on the wane?  This evening showcase for St. Petersburg College's Real Clash of The Titans was intended to include a rap battle.  Despite decent efforts to find "golden tongued" MCs, after a few warm up performances, the night turns into a regular gig.
This is not such a bad thing however, as the Hip Hop Ensemble's first show is fantastic.  Jay Acolyte begins by saying what conscious rappers have been saying for decades now: that their intention is to show the intelligent commentary hip hop can provide.  Decked out in glasses and a Mario t-shirt, Jay looks the part of the conscious rapper (though veering close to the conscious nerdcore stylings of MC Frontalot), and for the first song of many he is joined by fellow lyricist Rashad "Shadcore" Harrell. It's a strong opener, and by the time of second song 'Stupid,' 2 more people have joined the microphone wall of sound.  A bit of inverse nu-metal (growling over a beat) takes place before, briefly, a fifth lyricist joins them! (Special guest Doug Leto.)
Real Clash of the Titans are taking it back to the concrete streets with not just real live MCs but original beats.  This showcase features all kinds of musicians, and their combining does not feel forced. Each instrument and vocal style is given a chance to shine: 2 drums, bongos, turntables, piano, keyboard, bass, guitar, singing, cowbell, beatboxing, flamingos. Their well-mixed mash-up and also sheer numbers are reminiscent of The Polyphonic Spree or Asian Dub Foundation.  And if you don't think Asian Dub Foundation comparisons are something to get worked up about, you're missing out (the similarities are even closer than that: ADF began as a youth music project at a community center, while RCOTT are from a music department at a community college).
There's yet more artistic breadth on display here.  Most of the event has taken place under darkness with deft use of spotlights.  During an instrumental moment, a total lack of light allows for a theater-like moving of scenery, and when the lights come up we're treated to a trash can performance in the vein of Stomp.  French surrealism makes an appearance in the track 'Tribute to Marcel Duchamp,'  and a slower number called 'Chalkboard' acknowledges where the ensemble is rooted in the here and now.  Just when you think no more variety can be crammed in, Dawn Pufahl joins everyone else, playing viola on the Titans anthem, 'Effigy.'  We even get to hear it almost twice as DJay Acolyte kindly stops the piece halfway through so that the viola can be adjusted and properly heard.
I am glad these friendly and talented people are The Real Clash of the Titans, as the recent films starring Liam Neeson have been crap.  When the next installment of the franchise comes out, go and see this lot instead. 
You can see and hear The Real Clash of the Titans performing at the Tarpon Springs campus, on December 1st, here

James Lamont is host of Transatlantic Tunnel on the MYRA Radio Network.