The Smoker's Club Tour/Aesop Rock Trees/The Granada Theater Thursday, August 9
Last night was a hard night for a hip-hop fan in Dallas. The Smoker's Club Tour had favorites like Juicy J and next big things Smoke DZA and Joey Bada$$ at Trees. Aesop Rock was bringing his flavor back to Dallas with Brooklyn hype-man Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz after a brief hiatus. And my evening doesn't even take into consideration the Rick Ross showing at Zouk. It was one of those Thursdays in Dallas, where you have to figure out how to be in three places at once, and I may have just barely managed to pull it off.
All of these acts are competent, and put on their respective shows with style. Let's just get that criticism out of the way. Trees continues to be a stellar room for Scoremore to showcase their particular brand of emerging hip-hop artist, the beats bang harder and sound clearer than any room in Dallas. Over at the Granada, Aesop Rock wore his intellectual stamina on one sleeve, and his heart on the other.
The key to these nights, when a music geek must ping-pong all around town to see her beloveds on the mic, is fantastic parking. For that you must turn it over to the universe. After that, don't let a little inconvenience like over-scheduling and separate venues get in your way, and you can pull off your own hip-hop festival.
I got to The Smoker's Club early. Teenagers were already arriving in their Juicy J "It's Trippy Mayne" T-shirts, and as I approached the entrance that sugary marijuana scent was already wafting down Elm. The Smoker's Club tour is a collection of artists whose mixtapes we all love, but whose faces we don't know. When I walk in, it's packed, but it's nowhere near the hot box it will become.
I have to leave too soon, but I land at the Granada just as Aesop Rock begins his set. The crowd was still buzzing from turntablist opener, Edison, known for his live sequencing on the Monome. Combined with DJ Big Whiz's live-scratching and beat building, it was a gear nerd's dream. Rock's set focuses on the new Skelethon, but in a small break he invites Brad "Heart of Dallas" French onstage to enjoy a fade of sorts from the non-barber music makers in Dark Time Sunshine, while Rock rips through "Racing Stripes."
I race back down Elm Street, just in time for Juicy J. Trees is close to capacity now. I find my place among the beat-heads and the girls eager to get onstage and dance for J. Early in his set, he goes for "High As Fuck." The crowd goes wild. A man next to me grabs me around the neck, hands in the air and bobs me along with his crew till we get to the hook. I'm staring up at the stage, wondering if those girls really want to be up there dancing. My new friend offers me a swisher. And I start to laugh at the absurdity of the night.
Sometimes you get a critic on these pages, but sometimes you get a cheerleader. It can be worth it to chase these moments in our city, and each show is like our own little pep rally. "Dallas," all of the artists say, "you are going hard tonight."
And sometimes we really are.