Concert Reviews

Grieves & Budo, K. Flay Lace Up House of Blues

Last Night: Grieves, Budo, K. Flay House of Blues December 14, 2011

Better than: Hip-hop in a suburban church.

This suburban triple-header brought out a crowd of 150 or so to the Cambridge Room at House of Blues, and the almost exclusively white 20-something crowd was treated to a brand of hip-hop designed to spread happiness and light. In other words, despite the persistent dropping of F-bombs, this evening had as much edge and menace as a Jack Johnson concert.

Headliners Grieves & Budo call Seattle home, and brought with them a fellow hometown band called Brave Lights to open. Featuring a mixture of recorded beats and live instrumentation, the band's guitarist provided a backdrop for the two rappers to describe life on the mean streets of Seattle.

The evening's second act was K. Flay, a San Francisco girl with a growing buzz. Accompanied by a drummer that would not be out of place in LCD Soundsystem, K. Flay combined rapping with singing, and that was impressive. Commanding keys and samplers to kick the songs off, she delivered staccato rhymes, peppered with a kind of hiccup sound. She roamed the stage, occasionally throwing in percussion on her own drums.

What she was saying exactly was hard to make out in the mix, which is unfortunate. There just aren't that many girl rappers and it would have been nice to know what her point of view was. Then again, one song she introduced was about the nightmare of shopping at Costco on a Sunday. She showcased her rapping skills with a song ("Doctor Don't Know," maybe?) that upped the beat count with each verse until she was hitting a pace that would make Busta Rhymes sweat.

Headliners Grieves & Budo kicked things off with a song that had producer and multi-instrumentalist Budo playing trumpet. Grieves got a good flow going and the audience clearly responded. He's clearly in his element on stage, but it's Budo's instrumentation that elevated the performance.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I have to confess that hip-hop by white dudes is not the most engaging music for me. It's kind of like listening to John Mayer play the blues. The music can be a spot-on technical rendering, yet still never really capture the essence that makes it connect emotionally.