The Cannabinoids feat. Erykah Badu and Shiny Toy Guns
October 16, 2009
Better Than: a Texas-OU tennis match.
Check out photos from the show here in our slideshow.
Continuing the time-honored tradition of competition between Texas and Oklahoma, fans at Victory Plaza were treated once again to a duel between the states--only this one involved a battle of the bands.
Sponsored by Red Bull, the unique Soundclash event pitted bands from opposite sides of both the musical spectrum and the Red River against one another, as Dallas-native Erykah Badu and her experimental hip-hop jam band The Cannabinoids took on the Oklahoma City indie rock outfit Shiny Toy Guns.
Given the unconventional nature of the concert, some explanation is in order: With two full stages at either end of the plaza, each group opened with a 15-minute set, followed by four rounds of competition, each of which featured a different twist that was meant to stretch the bands outside of their musical comfort zones. What ensued was a back-and-forth volley of styles that kept the audience on its toes and very much into the results of the contest-much like the college football fans for the following day's Cotton Bowl match up.
A definite hometown fave, Badu and her Cannabinoids opened the night, creating an organic sonic mixture that included elements of boom bap hip-hop, pop, turtablism, funk and soul. Combined with a variety of laptops, drum machines, turntables and keyboards, Badu's vocals gave the audience an anchor of familiarity to counter the jam-band feeling that Cannabinoids' the on-the-fly production creates.
Meanwhile, while the Shiny Toy Guns may be classified as indie pop, it wouldn't be fair to pigeonhole them as such--especially given the success with which they handled the rigors of the Soundclash. Sprawling guitars found their way back to infectious pop hooks, powered by the male-female vocal duo of Sisely Treasure and Chad Petree. Putting the loud-quiet-loud indie rock convention popularized by The Pixies on its head, Shiny Toy Guns let its powerful choruses do the driving. And it was the energy of Treasure-whose wide range proves that she has more than a little gravel mixed in with her saccharine pop lyrics-that seemed to make the biggest impression on the audience.
But back to the competition: Each of the four rounds had a different theme, with some rounds worth more points than others. Among them: The Cover Round, with each band taking on the Michael Jackson hit "Never Can Say Goodbye" (too soon?) and the Takeover Round, which saw each band interpreting one of the other's hits. And in case you're wondering, yes, the acts had rehearsed the songs beforehand.
Possibly the most interesting moment of the night came during the Clash round, which had each band play a song in the style of ballad, dub, and country. The country renditions were by far the most memorable. While the Shinys took a more traditional approach-Petree even went as far as to don a black cowboy hat and acoustic guitar as he employed an old-school country drawl to one of his band's songs, it was the Cannabinoids' honky tonk stylings that stole the show. Badu was clearly having as much fan as the pleasantly surprised audience, dropping plenty of "yesirees" and "yeehaws" to the delight of everyone within earshot. The crowd was also treated to what may have been the first instance of the word "errybody" in the history of country lyrics.
The final round then required that each group bring a guest onstage, Shiny Toy Guns opted to enlist the turntable services of the Scandinavian battle DJ Billy Sexcrime. But Badu's outfit pulled no punches in catering to the local crowd, inviting ex-Tripping Daisy frontman and current Polyponic Spree lead Tim Delaughter onstage. His wild contributions included a delightful mix of xylophone, drums and a crazy joystick-controlled instrument that seemed to confound everyone who heard it. Badu even exclaimed at one point on stage "What the hell is that!?!?!?!" in reference to the instrument.
But, it all came down to the crowds, really, as the outcome of the battle was solely judged on crowd applause, with plaza miked up to record the decibel level of each side's backers after each round.
The high energy and surprisingly wide vocal range of Shiny Toys Guns' Treasure caught the attention of more than a few locals who'd came out solely to support their girl Badu, making for a fiercely close contest that had its share of lead changes and several gut-wrenching ties when it came down to voting time.
When the final competition ended up a 5-5 draw, fans of both groups huddled to the space between the stages for one final yell-off, which was finally settled when the Cannabinoids took the win.
Bravo to the organizers of the Red Bull Soundclash--which also featured radio hosts Gordon Keith and Ali Dudek and DJ Sober on the transitions--for managing to put together a surprisingly unique, friendly, and engaging concert experience to a Texas-OU weekend that is normally known more for the venom and scorn that is exchanged between the sides.
In a move that echoes this sentiment, the bands ended the night with an extended jam that included over 15 musicians from both groups on the same stage, playing an improptu set that left fans of both in a buzz.
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For a little while on Friday night, we all forgot about football, a testament to the talent from both sides of the Red River.
Personal Bias: Although I had never heard the Shiny Toy Guns before Friday, I found myself cheering louder for them on a couple of occasions when it came to voting time. What can I say? Talent wins out over state allegiances.
Random Note: Shiny Toy Guns and Sisely Treasure more than impressed many when they performed top-notch covers of Badu's hits "Tyrone" and "On and On" in front of a crowd quite familiar with those tunes. Big ups to them for that.
By the Way: After the conclusion of the affair, Badu reminded us why we were all in Dallas this weekend in the first place: A college football game. Before she stepped down from the stage, she was sure to remind the Oklahoma fans, in her friendliest tone and with a big smile on her face, "Y'all about to get y'all ass kicked!"