Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: KRS One at The Studio, Auckland

When New Zealand hiphop fans heard news reports that legendary New York hiphop MC KRS One was stopping off here on the way to Australia back in December, a lot of folk, myself included, started pleading on social media for some promoter to land a show here with him. He chooses to travel by cruise ship, so was due back here at some point. There were various whispers and then we got the good news - his NZ shows were announced in February after promoter Ginnen Group signed him up.

Opening acts for this hiphop pioneer included some of Aotearoa's hiphop pioneers - DJ Sirvere, MC Slave, and Hedlock, a group comprised of King Kapisi, Che Fu, and Teremoana Rapley.

Heldock also pulled in a few very special guests - like Manuel Bundy, Slave, and Danny D from Dam Native, who came out to deliver The Horifed One with Teremoana, and then the killer hit - Che Fu introducing DLT onto the stage, and DLT drops Chains, with Che upfront singing it (watch it above).

The whole place cheered and hollered, it was very special to see DLT acknowledged by the crowd for one of the songs that is a defining moment in our musical history. Chains was number one for six weeks, back in 1996, when NZ hiphop was all but invisible in the mainstream.

Che Fu. Photo: Mr Rimoni
DJ Sirvere returned to the stage, keeping the crowd energised, and then KRS One's DJ took over, dropping about half a dozen hiphop classics. KRS One's voice then boomed out from the PA, from backstage, calling on his DJ to play one more song, then he said "We're gonna get this started right." So KRS One was welcomed onto the stage by a powhiri. Damn!

A man with a conch shell walked out onstage and blew it into the mic. Two women joined him, singing a traditional welcome calling KRS One to the stage (they were from Ngati Whatua, I heard). He came running out and hugged each of the welcoming party, and then it was on.

KRS One spent the next hour and a half rapping up a storm, throwing down lyrics effortlessly. I won't attempt to name all the songs he dropped, but my favourite was hearing Jack of Spades (with a super cool reggae sample looped up), which he reminded us was from a movie by Keenan Ivory Wayans, called I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

KRS One paused a few times, got his DJ to turn the music down so we could hear him. He dropped an acapella piece half way thru the show that was KRS One rapping lines from a ton of classic hiphop tunes, all jammed into one mega-verse. It was incredible. His energy level the whole night was just was insane. He even rapped over a piece of classical music at one point.

He told the soundman what to do, turn it up! was an oft-repeated phrase of the night. He also wasnt happy with the venue security people standing front of the stage, and told them to move away to the side, cos they were blocking the view of the people down front. They didn't budge.

So KRS One turned round and called to the back of the stage "Where's my security?"and out came two tall men in black suits, who waved the venue security to the sides, which they did. KRS One was in control of this show, and he wanted us to know it.

At one point the told the crowd "I'm gonna come down there and you can get some photos with me..." pointing to the side of stage. Next thing, he's plowing thru the crowd, still rapping, posing for photos, and then makes his way back to the stage, and says "I'm gonna go back down there in a minute." Dude was fully interacting with the crowd.

Finally he wrapped up the show, telling the crowd he will be giving a lecture on the foundation of hiphop at the museum tomorrow (Sunday), continuing the conversation of the show, but he stopped to check with the folk backstage - "they all know which museum, right? Cos there's more than one museum here... oh, they got it. Good!"

His last words were addressed to the police, who didnt want hiphop down at The Cloud because of fears of violence (see below for the official quote). He used that distinctive line from an NWA song on the cops (as also used by Tiki Taane), and he told us to tell the Police that hiphop isnt about violence, it's about peace, love, unity and having fun. And he was out.

It was a great night. You don't see hiphop shows like that here every day. When KRS One said that what we were seeing was a historic moment, he was dead right. It may have sounded like a grand claim, but he delivered on it. In spades.

KRS One. Photo: Mr Rimoni
The venue choice for the Wellington show was the beautiful Wellington Town Hall, but Auckland got The Cloud, a flash tent on the waterfront originally built for the Rugby World Cup. The promoter said they went with that venue as it was all they could secure at short notice.

Having attended The Specials concert in the space next to The Cloud, Shed 10, it was pretty obvious that you would have major noise issues at The Cloud. It has no sound insulation, no solid walls, and faces The Hilton and apartments opposite, and apartments on Quay St.

On the Friday before the show, the promoters announced they were moving it to The Studio, on K Rd, citing "strict sound restrictions and licensing issues which have recently come to our attention that does not help us to proceed with this event at the Cloud due to the Police not approving our license because of their negative view on “RAP MUSIC” being at the Cloud."

The statement from the Police that was doing the rounds on social media on Friday quoted Inspector Derek Davison, saying "Rap draws on a certain group within society which cause problems for the community as a whole". The Police felt this was the case in Auckland with a Council-owned venue, but as far as I know wasn't an issue for Wellington Police with the venue down there, also Council-owned.

While seeing KRS One on K Rd made a lot more sense than on the waterfront, cos let's face it, K Rd is way more hiphop than the waterfront, it still sounds odd. That quote is from an email from Police to the original venue and the promoters, and it would be interesting to see what context that statement was made in.

You have to wonder why we paid almost $10 million for a venue that we were promised would be of use to Aucklanders beyond the RWC, but now sits largely empty on the waterfront like a white elephant. In August last year, Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett said The Cloud will be on Queens Wharf for at least a decade. That's a very long time for a venue that was only actively used for six weeks, during the RWC.

The only public event I can find that has happened at The Cloud since the end of the RWC was the NZ Beer Festival. An event celebrating alcohol is okay but not one celebrating hiphop?

And hang on, Che Fu performed down on the waterfront at a recent event featuring a number of hiphop acts, BaseFM's Shake And Bake gig, at the Silo Park over in the Wynard Quarter. There were people sitting round drinking alcohol outdoors, and listening to rap music. No violence, no arrests, no trouble. Just people having fun.

Slave. Photo: Mr Rimoni

WOOP WOOP! Added: Russell Brown posted the full Police email on Public Address, Plus some more correspondence around the event...

Hi Connie and Cathy – to advise that NO SPECIAL LICENCE will be issued for this event.

There are a whole range of factors behind such a decision;

lateness of the application (although that has been disputed)
because of the lateness Police have not had adequate time to report on the Matter (and statutorily are not required to do so because of said lateness)
type of event – rap draws on a certain group within society which cause problems for the community as a whole
probability of abuse of alcohol causing disorder within and outside the event – alcohol is a crime driver there are many licensed outlets in the CBD to which patrons could avail themselves before and after this event

Otherwise, this event will be visited and monitored by Police on the night.

I will advise the Shift Commanders, Downtown staff and Northern Communications Centre accordingly.

Inspector| Special Operations Planning Group (SOG)

An email in which the promoter addresses the lateness question:

Now when he said the lateness of application…I was shocked as we submitted a while ago, then sat with council saying yes approved at compliance meeting with the Venue staff, my Security team, my bar manager and my business partners. The council apparently said it got lost for a week….

And a response from Davison to Greer Flynn, who was involved with the show:

Good morning Greer.

As I indicated in my telephone conversation with you this morning.

Police will not alter their stance in regards to your liquor licence application.

Had the Police been involved with your event from the outset, then this matter would have been better addressed.

I can say here and now, it would still be most unlikely that Police would have agreed to the granting of a special licence even had we been at that meeting given the nature/location of the event.

RELATED: Ingrid Grenar reviews KRS One's gig and lecture
KRS-One lectures Auckland in hip hop:  KRS One's talk at Auckland Museum...
Volume Mag's Danielle Street reviews KRS One

ADDED Sunday April 29 from today's Sunday Star Times: No home for rap at Queens Wharf. Unfortunately only half of the article is online, the other half, with comment from Waterfront Auckland's Bob Harvey saying that The Cloud was desperate for bookings - it only has 6 upcoming events booked for the main space - plus a list of events happening at the Cloud since Dec 2011 when Waterfront Auckland took over, doesn't appear online - print only.

It notes a list of 11 events that have been held in The Cloud and are reported to have attracted a total of 16,000 people. I looked up attendance on the NZ Beer Festival, and that accounted for a crowd of 10,000.

No comments: