With Dezi 5, Party Static, Sam Lao and more
Saturday and Sunday, April 30, and May 1, 2016
Art Peña's Vice Palace has a healthy reputation for its grimey variety shows. For a long time, that meant guerrilla shows in warehouses, which was where the self-proclaimed "roving music venue" celebrated its first anniversary last year. But over the weekend the city-sponsored tape label took the plunge on booking its two-year anniversary in a Deep Ellum club, RBC, and proved that the transition didn't have to mean losing any of its scrappy pedigree in the process.
A lot has changed since VP's early days holding warehouse shows, which Peña says just weren't sustainable. DIY shows in old derelict buildings can be expensive and even a little dangerous. So, over the course of the past year or so, he's been gradually moving into more commercial spaces, like art galleries and bookstores. But Peña has continued to focus on showcasing Dallas' best underground acts, with bills that hop genres between pure noise, hip-hop and punk rock, and for VP's second anniversary he brought two whole nights of music.
The first night at RBC saw a steady stream of fans pouring into the venue as the noise of Ethics filled the room, backed by a continuous psychedelic light show that set the mood for a sonic rainbow of acts throughout the evening. DJs Cygnus, Shooknite and Jeff Parrott performed upstairs during the sets, providing a lounge-y counterpoint to the indoor performances.
Then George Quartz's band came on stage to lay down a basic groove which, without their leader, sounded more like a sound check than anything. But after about 20 minutes, Quartz himself was carried on stage by two dancers. The posh demeanor of Quartz played along nicely to the no wave drone beneath his echoing gut-vocals, with his accompanying dancers helping to add a visual spectacle to his performance art.
Quartz was followed by -topic, who put on an impassioned set that was both raw and fierce. The rapper spit rhymes with a kind of full-frontal ferocity that showed him giving his absolute all throughout his entire performance. Backed by Kool Quise, who also laid down some heavy lines of his own, their set was one of the most emotionally charged of the night.
Then Def Rain's Ashley Cromeen's steady lull shone in a shower of mysterious suave. About an hour past midnight, Street Sects used a fog machine to fill the room with fog that was so thick that it was hard to breathe or even see anything at all within the clubs doors. But the act's vicious and danceable electronic thrash topped the night.
By Sunday evening, the long weekend had taken its toll but the party bumped just as much, if not more, than the previous night. It's hard to say who was the most impressive act, but Heavy Baby Sea Slugs and 7 tha Great both went over particularly well with the audience. The Slugs played a block of intricate hardcore punk with a surrealistic twist. The group's style has evolved far beyond their early bedroom electronic noise as vocalist Marcus Kozminsky did a real savage Iggy Pop-meets-Ian MacKaye presentation behind a wall of pure thrash. 7 tha Great, meanwhile, lived up to his name with another kind of fierceness and more than enough bounce for a decent crowd to move along to.
Nearing the end of the night, Sam Lao laid down a set of songs that were equal parts beautiful and harmoniously brutal, which turned some heads even as the crowd began to shrink. Her stage presence glowed with a hint of punk rock to complement her melodic hip-hop style. Party Static brought some late-night energy that was surprising even for them, with Dezi 5's blend of dance party jams to wrap it all up.
VP Year 2 ended up being pure Dallas grit in all its underground glory. Even though Peña says he barely broke even money-wise, his efforts to create a crossroads of music communities that would otherwise never have connected went quite smoothly.