Following the release of Never Better, P.O.S. immediately hit the road to tour the country with a few members of the Doomtree collective. I attended the tour stop in Madison, WI yesterday. This post is a general recap of the show, I'll be following this up with video footage from each of the artists over the next couple of days.
I arrived for the show at Madison's High Noon Saloon, a no-nonsense kind of venue that is usually successful hosting hip-hop shows (good acoustics, stage visibility, etc.). I had to deal with some minor fuckery, for lack of a better word, upon my entrance. Despite being asked to cover the event, I ended up not being on the guest list (likely due to some irresponsible and poor communication on my part). I ended up paying the twelve dollars to get in, and at the risk of ruining any suspense, I'll go ahead and say it was well worth my money.
When I showed up, the opening act, F. Stokes, was on the stage. The venue was unusually full for an opening act, which I credit to Doomtree's strong following in the Midwest (and college towns, at that), and the large Minnesotan population of students attending UW-Madison. Still, F. Stokes got a warm reception from the crowd, and deservedly so — he is a talented performer. Mike Mictlan and P.O.S. were hanging out amongst the crowd during his set; it was nice to see all the performers enjoying the music and conversing with fans.
In between sets, Rhymesayers' house DJ, Plain Ole Bill, was spinning records and keeping an uptempo party vibe alive. In one set, he played Lazerbeak's "Legend Recognize Legend," (in my opinion one of 2008's best beats) and the crowd got pretty excited. Soon enough, Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak took the stage to perform several tracks from their recent album, Hand Over Fist. Mictlan is a furious performer. His set was concise, with Mictlan quickly transitioning from one song to the next. Yet it was also energy packed – while Mictlan barely had time to catch is breath, he jumped around stage during every track while rarely missing a single lyric. Lazerbeak did his thing, as well. He was working his MPC during all the songs, either banging out samples, or performing the bass drum kicks and snare hits himself, which allowed for some improvisation in each track. They did songs such as "Hand Over Fist," "Suicide Jimmy Snuffa," "Clam Casino," and "Game Over (Go Big Or Go Home Boy)," from the Doomtree album. But no song was more passionately performed than the terrific "Prizefighter," as Mictlan closed his set with his spirited track dedicated to his love and devotion for hip-hop.
Sims performed next, once again accompanied by Lazerbeak rocking the MPC. Sims' performance featured more crowd involvement, as he regularly stopped in between songs to talk to the audience, often with a mix of sarcasm, humor, and seriousness. Still, his songs were full of vigor and deft lyricism (I'm starting to notice a pattern). Many of Sims' older tracks from Lights Out Paris received warm welcomes; but his best material came from the Doomtree album, as well. Sims kicked off the excellent "Pop Gun War" with an acapella, and it only got better when Lazerbeak's thumping beat (reminiscent of Jay-Z's "PSA," to me at least) dropped. Near the end of the set, Mictlan joined Sims for a riveting performance of "Slow Burn." The crew, producers and emcees alike, all have unmatched chemistry together, which reflected through their show.
Lastly, P.O.S.'s set was a truely versatile performance. In promotion for his tour, P.O.S. claimed that he would be doing "a little bit of everything" during the show; he couldn't have been more right. He started out his set with a guitar solo, jumped right into the punk/hip-hop anti-Bush anthem, "Half-Cocked Concepts," despite the fact that we have a new president. P.O.S. wasted no time moving on to songs from his latest album, Never Better. P.O.S. gave gripping renditions of "Graves (We Wrote The Book)," "Never Better," and "Drumroll." He brought out Sims and Mictlan for the collaboration tracks "Accident" and "Savion Glover." In between songs, P.O.S. would play his guitar or freestyle on his MPC with Plain Ole Bill scratching a record. P.O.S. really established himself as a jack of all trades, able to keep the crowd engaged in countless ways. He also has an uncanny ability to relate with his fans, constantly talking and asking questions; at one point he even had an old school thumb war a drunk challenger in the first row (and won twice in a row, naturally). The absolute highlight of his set, though, was his extended emotional performance of "Let It Rattle," which I was able to capture on video and will be posting soon. In true humble fashion, though, P.O.S. declared his fan athem "Optimist (We Are Not For Them)" his last song of the night. He lied — P.O.S. actually closed by trudging two feet deep into the crowd and letting it rip with "Stand Up (Let's Get Murdered)" — but it was a fitting near-ending to a spectacular show.
Throughout the entire night, these Doomtree members only furthered their reuptation as being a relatable, fan-friendly set of performers. Not to mention, they can rap, play guitar, make great beats, and put on one hell of a performance.