Last Night: Atmosphere At House Of Blues

Atmosphere's Paint the Nation Tour House of Blues November 9, 2008

Better Than: Getting drunk, going into a trailer park and picking a fight.

Last time I checked, Atmosphere was a hip-hop duo. And when I listen to them in my headphones, I hear introspective rap with distinctive beats that make me nod my head.

So what was up at House of Blues last night?

Let’s start with a venue that just doesn’t cater to hip-hop. The Pontiac Garage at House of Blues makes for a nice, intimate hip-hop show but the main stage (where Atmosphere performed) stands too tall and too far behind a barricade. The room is wide and it’s a long walk to the bar in the back. Throw in an excessive amount of drunk, tacky people and you’ve got yourself one disconnected show.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Slug and Ant, the MC and producer respectively that make up Atmosphere, did what they came to do. They took the stage along with a live band and put on a powerful show from start to finish.

However, the decision to trade samples for gospel-infused vocals and even bring out an acoustic guitar for one track was a risky one. While the keyboards added some jazz and the guitarist proved he could shred, especially on intense tracks like “Guarantees,” the complexity demanded a more in-tune audience that, sadly, was not the majority at this show.

Fights broke out on every side of me; people pushed, spilled beer on each other and screamed like little girls at a Jonas Brothers concert. Some guy in his mid-twenties tried to crowd surf, inevitably kicking a bunch of people in the back of the head and getting called out by Slug for acting like a 16-year-old at a Limp Bizkit show.

In fact, our MC had to stop several times to remind the crowd that we were there as a community, verbally breaking up fights and bringing a sense of humor back into the night. Slug definitely proved he can work a crowd but if he hadn’t had to, maybe we could have all enjoyed his lyricism a little more.

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Even more confusing is the fact that things started out relatively chill. Abstract Rude opened the show with west coast flows about getting high and other such fun. Same with Blueprint, who was just as clever as he was loud.

The crowd was sufficiently hyped by the time Atmosphere opened its set with the older/wiser “Like the Rest of Us,” from its latest album.

And, for those of us who could stand upright long enough to enjoy them, there moments of collective bliss during “God Loves Ugly” and “Trying to Find a Balance,” where everything seemed to work itself out. --Brittan Dunham

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: DJ Rare Groove, who spun for opening acts Abstract Rude and Blueprint was one of the more crowd-pleasing DJs I’ve seen lately. He kept the crowd so involved between sets that it never felt like the show paused even for a second.

Random Note: Slug made a reference to “Ellument” which, truth be told, I’m only old enough to appreciate through stories. It made me think about how much better suited Deep Ellum was to this kind of show and has me wishing that my generation could have held on to some of that rather than just catching the tale end of it as we came of age.

By The Way: I wonder what happened to dude in the green shirt? The night could not have ended well for someone who punched a security guard in the face...

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