Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Live Shows: The Pharcyde and STL GLD, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 11/19/23

Photo by Ken Sears

I have been a huge fan of The Pharcyde for thirty years now. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Bizarre Ride II, and it was one of those albums I bought less than an hour after hearing it. Back in the 90's, Boston wasn't exactly a live hip hop destination with many venues reluctant to book rap artists. The only way I got to see The Pharcyde live was back in 1996 when they opened for Korn, which was not exactly the ideal way to see them. The closest I came after that was twelve (?) years ago when Slimkid3 and Fatlip toured as Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde with J-Swift and LA Jay. (The Pharcyde at that point was Bootie Brown and Imani.) Last year, Slimkid3, Fatlip, and Imani reunited as The Far Side (formerly of The Pharcyde), but didn't make it to anywhere in New England. As soon as they announced a run of New England shows, I knew I had to go.

As excited as I was to see a reunited The Pharcyde, I was more than a little hesitant. Were the three of them getting along? Was this just going to be an obvious cash grab? Within a minute of them starting, all concerns were gone. Slimkid3, Fatlip, and Imani all sound great and had more energy than I could have predicted from three guys in their fifties. They opened with "Ya Mama" and played songs mostly from Bizarre Ride II, with a handful from Labcabincalifornia like "Drop" and "Runnin.'" Mostly, though, they seemed like they were having a fantastic time. The crowd (which was far younger than I expected) met and exceeded their energy, thrilled to finally be seeing these classic songs live. 

I was curious how they were going to deal with the absence of Bootie Brown, the one member not taking part in the reunion. Instead of ignoring it, they let his verses play pre-recorded off the record. For his verse of "Passin' Me By," the crowd mostly took over vocals and loudly shouted/sang along. One of the coolest parts of the performance of "Passin' Me By" was the DJ showing how they used the Quincy Jones sample before the song started. That was followed immediately by "Otha Fish" which let Slimkid3 shine. A large section of the song was done a capella, with Slimkid3 crooning most of it. "4 Better or 4 Worse" was another highlight with Fatlip subbing the last time of his imitated phone call verse with "I don't want to get cancelled." If you know the song... you know.

If you love The Pharcyde, get out there are see them. The show far exceeded anything I hoped for, and might be the show of the year for me. The only regret I had was that I didn't also see them in Hampton Beach on Friday and Greenfield on Saturday.

Even though there were two other options to see The Pharcyde in New England this weekend, I knew I chose correctly once STL GLD was announced as the opener for The Sinclair. The Boston hip hop group are one of the best live shows in the city, and they brought it Sunday night. Despite the success of GLD FST over the summer, most of the crowd was not familiar with them and seemed confused when the show started with a drummer and guitarist on stage, joined shortly by Christopher Talken screaming into a microphone metal style. Once Moe Pope joined, the crowd got it and got into the show. Songs like "Wild Style" and "Resisting" won the crowd over. It seemed like STL GLD purposefully put their louder and more energetic songs up front to grab everyone, and then chilled things out towards the end of their set. They even played "Again," which I don't think I've ever seen them do live. I've only ever seen them as an opening band or as part of a festival, so I really need to make it to a STL GLD headlining show one of these days.

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