Better than: Rat tails?
As not great as breathy slow jam duo inc. sounded last night, it really didn't seem to be their fault. Blame it on the sound board, or the acoustical properties of the brick warehouse in which they played, but there was the sense that the buzz-ey duo, brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged, didn't get a fair shake at impressing the hometown crowd simply because the speakers at the Bootleg were turned up too loud. Really, whatever was happening at the soundboard did nothing to positively exacerbate the sexed out nu-Prince sound that plays so slow and nice on inc.'s just out debut no world.
They should have been performing at a swank jazz club, hell, in someone's living room, inside a velvet glove, anywhere. There should have been candlelight and meaningful eye contact across a smoky lounge. But unfortunately, last night there was just a shitty sound system and two guys onstage (in the larger of the Bootleg's two performance spaces) trying really hard to do right by a crowd that really wanted to get into it but couldn't quite seem to go there. Like bad sex or something.
10:30pm: With opener Ian Isiah there are hints that the sound in this warehouse space is totally wonky. The Brooklyn-based neo-soul singer is putting a lot of effort forth but all the subtleties of his wailing are lost in a sound stew of sludgy beats, grating robotic accompaniment and fake smoke. Altogether, the situation sounds like a bad mushroom trip.
10:40pm: “I get shady when I smoke la la,” sings Isiah which is surely a sentiment most of us can relate to. It does smell like weed in here.
10:45pm: A guy wearing flannel and a mustache looks at the stage, shakes his head and walks out the door to the outside patio. It's worth noting that anyone brave enough to get up onstage and perform deserves points for trying.
10:55pm: Out on the patio, everyone is dressed like it's 1993. It's like an episode of A Different World mashed up with a Color Me Badd video. Dude is even sporting a rat tail. Have rat tails replaced mullets as the new ironic throwback hairstyle for men?
11:00pm: Crowd assembles inside as Inc. takes the stage and launches into “Desert Rose (War Prayer).” The sound is alarmingly off, so much so that all one can really focus on is how bad the sound is, and when it might be fixed.
11:10pm: “SOUNDCHECK!” yells a guy at the back of the audience.
11:15pm: Let's just say that inc.'s sound is full on seven minutes in heaven style makeout music, but all the subtleties of the turn-me-on sound are getting blown out, and instead of making out everyone is just standing around looking sort of non-plussed.
11:20pm: “TURN IT DOWN” yells the back of the audience guy.
11:25pm: The brothers themselves also look like mid-'90s rave dudes, with their slightly baggy all white outfits and gelled hair and double ear piercings. They both perform almost exclusively with their eyes closed, and the Aged brother on bass has a endearing twitchy head bob move happening.
11:30pm: I move positions in the crowd and find that the music does sound slightly better from a different vantage point. Still, having two drummers onstage is definitely one too many drummers. Those drums are too loud.
11:35pm: Andrew Aged's voice is the truth though. As sexy a coo as it is on the album. And the guitar solos seem to be real deal Paisley Park-inspired soul too. The musicianship all seems to a proficient execution; this could all be so good. We could all be making out right now. “SOUNDCHECK,” yells that same guy at the back of the crowd.
11:40pm: But…when the group slows the slow jams way down and gets very quiet and breathy and sensual, it all sort of works. The crowd cheers during the breakdown of “Black Wings.”
11:45pm: I spot a couple in the crowd making out and feel slightly better about this whole situation.
11:51pm: “Can all this hell be undone?” sings Aged as the floor below us all bounces from those who are dancing. It's slightly disconcerting how much the floor is shaking right now.
12:00am: The show is over and the fact of the matter is that I'm not convinced I have any idea what inc. actually sounds like live. The group is off to tour Europe at the moment, but someone at Vibrato or Blue Whale should book these guys a redo when they get back to town.
Personal bias: My middle school crush had a rat tail.
Overheard in the crowd: “I feel like this is the Peach Pit after dark.”
Desert Rose (War Prayer)
Trust (Hell Below)