Photos by Wild Don Lewis

Live in LA

at the Greek, July 28

On this warm summer night, Talib Kweli came out casual, sportin’ a white NY cap and big black shades. Once part of Black Star with Mos Def, Kweli led his own rap tribe (a DJ and two female backup singers), igniting the night with cool cuts like “The Blast,” “Get By” and the old-school B-Boy/Girl jam “We Got the Beat.”

With actor Laurence Fishburne and tons of screaming teenage girls in the crowd, the Black Eyed Peas, fronting a live four-man band, launched a high-energy show with “Hey Mama.” Fergie (Stacy Ferguson) hung an Angels rally monkey (new album: Monkey Business) from her pants; her ass-shaking got the rally going. Taboo (Jaime Gomez), in white shades and a bright white suit, explained, “I dressed in white to act like I’m a virgin, but I’m not!” (Allen Pineda) flaunted green shades and a Mohawk; (William Adams) wore an orange Bing Crosby hat with a matching shirt and tie. The Peas pushed the funky reggae jams “Smells Like Funk” and “Dum Diddy” (with Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” lyrics), then took it back to ’98 with “Joints & Jam,” mixing in Terror Squad’s “Lean Back.” Just returned from a Canadian tour, the Peas were happy to be home: “Nosotros somos DE LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA,” declared Taboo, unfurling a Mexican flag. “I was born in East L.A. y qué cabrónes!” a.p.l., who’s Filipino, followed, draped with the Philippine flag and rapping in Tagalog. On “Labor Day (It’s a Holiday),” the Peas busted into break dancing, spinning windmills; later he pulled out a huge cell phone, encouraging everyone to follow suit, and the Greek lit up like a galaxy as the crowd sang “Where Is the Love?”

The encore included the hottest song on the radio today, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”; the Peas finished with “Let’s Get It Started” — already warming up for their October 21 show at the Hollywood Bowl?

—Ben Quiñones

at the NOS Events Center, Riverside, July 30

12:05 — The humid air smells of kush & Coors Light. The crowd must be over 500 hop-fiends deep. The Stones Throw MCs (MED, Percee P, Oh No and Wildchild) kick hot, hyping the crowd to a fare-thee-well with “Take Me Back” and a number of impressive freestyles. It’s about to be a live day!

12:30 — New York–based freestyle emperor Supernatural blesses the sweaty crowd with his famous verbal obstacle course, borrowing random objects from audience members to create individual rhymes about each — this time 20 bars about clitorises, wheelbases and heartbeats. Dayum, this cat can rhyme about anything!

5:50 — The most slept-on artist in hip-hop, Sage Francis, rocked the damn bells with the diss, “We like 99 rappers, but Jay-Z ain’t one!” Beef on wax is back!

6:55 — Hiero, y’all!!! When it seemed the show could get no better, it did. Cali MCs Hieroglyphics showed us their souls when they kicked the hits “You Never Knew,” “Life Is a Blast” and “That’s When Ya Lost.” Lyricism at its finest.

10:30 — The backstage lounge area was littered with recycled video vixens, glassy-eyed and pissy drunk. Philly blunts were passed, Hennessy flowed and smiles were exchanged. A sudden hush came over the bevy of B-Boys backstage when the word was heard: “They shootin’. . . . Aww, made you look, you a slave to a page in my rhyme book!” Nas was definitely in the building! Festivalgoers who weren’t already in the pit swarmed toward the stage — 1,000 heads bobbing, 1,000 hands in the air; this was hip-hop euphoria.

11:45 — Ghostface, RZA and Raekwon emerged from the opaque scrim as the familiar violin section and sound of bees buzzing crept in: “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin’ to fuck wit!” Mayhem.

12:30 — The show closed with a freestyle cypher of MCs’ MCs — Kweli, SuperNat, Nas and others. But just when we thought it was over . . . out ran KRS-One, yelling “South Bronx, the south-south Bronx!” History was made.

—Jacqueline Whatley

at the Troubadour, July 26

Goldspot are a true phenomenon: a local band, signed to a start-up indie label, who fill the Troubadour tonight and leave a line outside even as they take the stage. After they endured L.A.’s soul-eroding amateur club circuit for five years, everything changed for Goldspot with the release this year of Tally of the Yes Men and the KCRW airplay that followed.

A triumph of quality over fashion, Goldspot are a collage of Radiohead’s acoustic yearnings, the Smiths’ smarty-pop, clean ’n’ cultured arrangements and main man Siddhartha’s eyelids-fluttering vibrato. No need for excessive volume or muso wanking: The songs, the players’ musicality and Siddhartha’s mildly melodramatic Orbison timbre are the factors that’ve packed this room.

Afroed, bespectacled drummer Ramy Antoun mutes his kit with a sheet, personifying Goldspot’s team mentality along with the bearded and bobbing emo-enthusiasm of guitarist Derrick Horst, the miss-’em-when-they’re-gone bass lines of Sergio Andrade, the trim grooves of Antoun and the keyboard contributions of Seth McLain. Tufty-haired Siddhartha’s gesticulating antics and gaping cajolery aren’t for everyone, but he’s a true front man in an otherwise visually neutral band.

Though “Motorcade,” with its acoustic brush and insinuating vocal, isn’t an obvious opener, Goldspot aren’t hurrying, secure in their songcraft. This is stand-and-listen stuff, and most here know the material well enough to mouth the words. Not remotely dangerous or overtly sexy, Goldspot nevertheless reel off mark-making melodies like some undiscovered jukebox: the Casio loop and lonely guitar of “Cusp”; the subtle, shivering rebellion of “Friday”; and girlies’ favorite “The Guard” — daydream doodles and reverbed regret between tragi-nostalgic pirouettes of carnival organ.

Goldspot save the distant, insistent “Rewind” and the unison optimism of “Time Bomb” till last, their point thoroughly made: L.A. bands can still build a following with great tunes and authentic performances.

—Paul Rogers


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