Last Night: Chiddy Bang, Vonnegutt at Trees

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Chiddy Bang, Vonnegutt
December 2, 2010

Better than: going to an actual SMU party.

Lest there remained any question as to whom the music of Chiddy Bang is meant for, the Philadelphia-based, indie rock-sampling hip-hop duo provided the answer at Trees last night.

Or maybe it's more appropriate to say that their crowd answered as much. Fresh-faced prepsters clad in attire splattered with Southern Methodist University logos spread out across the cavernous Deep Ellum venue's spot last night, looking somewhat awestruck for the bulk of the night -- shocked, no doubt, to find out places like the Peach Pit After Dark, or whatever its equivalent is on One Tree Hill is, in fact exist in Dallas.

And, like, sometimes? Bands they enjoy will even play them and stuff.

Chiddy Bang, based off the success of mixtapes The Swell Express and Air Swell has indeed amassed quite the following in the college circuit over the course of the past few years, thanks to songs like "Opposite of Adults," which finds Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege rapping over a chopped up sample of MGMT's "Kids," provided by his production partner, Noah "Xaphoon Jones" Beresin. Such is the duo's formula: Other tracks from the duo sample modern-day indie rock favorites from the likes of Passion Pit, Ratatat, Yelle, Sufjan Stevens and others.

It's easily accessible stuff, no doubt, for the young music fan with a taste for both indie rock and hip-hop. And, to the band's credit, their resulting fare is harmless and enjoyable enough -- not unlike a game of "Guess the Sample!" with a couple of clever rhymes presented over the top.

Or so is the case on record. Live, albeit with a bit of a surprise in play thanks to Beresin taking over the drum kit instead of a synthesizer and/or turntable and with the duo's beats being piped in through Trees' impressive-beyond-incumbent PA, it's a little stale. Despite earning points for a charming energy that allowed him to pass as an acceptable emcee for his duo's near hour-long performance, Anamege's rhymes lacked the alluring flow of their on-record presentation. Here, there were more shouted than anything, and more monotonous than undulating.

No matter: When popular samples piped in over the speakers, the crowd went appropriately ecstatic, as the duo no doubt anticipated. Such, is the case with this kind of promising, albeit, at this point, blatantly style-over-substance fare. And, when night-closer "Opposite of Adults" came on, the crowd revealed itself as a forgiving one -- just happy to be there, really.

Because, hey, Chiddy Bang is cool enough. And experiences like this can't often come on campus. And that was good enough for this audience.

Well, to a degree: Despite an appearance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and a guest spot on Big Boi's phenomenal Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty release from earlier this year, few in the crowd seemed aware at all of Atlanta based rap-rock four-piece Vonnegutt, which, in live settings, comes off, to keep this review's Beverly Hills 90210 vibe going, like the hip-hop dalliances of Brian Austin Green's David Silver character. As such, the act's performance fell largely flat, despite numerous attempts to get the crowd involved.

Maybe college students aren't as eager to play along as they first appear after all. Good thing, too, since Vonnegut, despite impressive individual players, offers up a style of music that died a good five years ago -- and that's being kind.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'd heard a couple of Chiddy Bang tracks, but a large part of my wanting to check out this show was because like-minded local openers Sore Losers were sharing this bill. Unfortunately, with two touring acts on the bill, too, as well as a DJ collective, Sore Losers' set was pushed up to quite early in the night. I wanted to see how they'd handle a room of this size. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see as much.

By The Way: This tour was sponsored by the most recent Need for Speed video game, and, toward the back of the room, a collection of HD televisions afforded concert-goers the chance to play the game if they got bored with the musical offerings. I tried the game out during Vonnegutt's set, only to get frustrated because I couldn't figure out which button controlled the gas pedal. I'm clearly getting old, folks.

Random Note: This show was fun enough, but, more important, it's indicative of some cool things to come at Trees in the coming months, as the venue is starting to come into its own and take a few more risks in its booking strategies. Among the interesting names playing the Deep Ellum venue in coming weeks: The Cool Kids, Against Me! and Mac Miller.

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