Tuesdays are rough for me.
I have class pretty much straight from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. So when I stumbled off the bus in Oakland October 29, I was wondering if I’d be able to make it through the show without falling asleep.
The line outside The New Parish stretched around the block; throngs of kids in tie-dye and baggy jeans, smoking blunts, waited to get into the little venue to see New York-based rap group Flatbush Zombies. Some had been waiting for hours and the tone of the crowd outside was muted.
I walked into the Parish with my eyes half-closed, blinking back sleep.
As I walked down the low-ceilinged hallway, I could hear the filtered sounds of the night’s opener, a group I’d never heard of before that went by the name of World’s Fair. I had heard that there were two openers, and I really hoped I’d be awake long enough to see Flatbush Zombies. And then I emerged into the stage area and the raw energy of the place reached out and smacked me across the face.
First off, The New Parish is a great place for a rap concert. There is a tiny central stage with standing room and it’s framed by a balcony that looks down on the stage and the crowd. Second, the crowd was stoked. There was something electric in the air, and World’s Fair was feeling that on stage. The stage was completely surrounded by a little sea of heads and arms bobbing to the beat.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a crowd this excited about the first act, especially when even the headliner is a still lesser-known group.
World’s Fair was doing an excellent job getting the crowd hyped and by the end of their set, everyone was crowd surfing and high-five-ing like crazy.
Next up was Bodega Bamz, a rapper from Spanish Harlem with a Sonic-the-hedgehog-fast tongue. He had a surprisingly long set, but the boisterous crowd got behind him and the energy just kept building. Finally he retreated to the walled-off section of the upper balcony where the members of World’s Fair were lounging. The crowd cheered him well after he left the stage before turning the volume down to a restless buzz.
A low chant emerged as the stage remained empty for what seemed like an eternity.
“Zombies, zombies, zombies…”
If walking into a World’s Fair set was a slap across the face, Zombie Juice’s entrance was like sticking a fork into an electrical outlet.
I suppose now would be a good time for a little history. Flatbush Zombies formed in Flatbush, Brooklyn (obviously) in 2010. The group consists of producer Erick Arc Elliot, rapper Zombie Juice, and frontman/rapper Meechy Darko. They came to YouTube fame through their video for “Thug Waffle,” a single off their also-famed mixtape “D.R.U.G.S.” Since then, they have been tearing up bars with fellow NYC rappers like A$AP Rocky and Joey Bada$$ and advocating psychedelics, gold teeth and breakfast foods through their trippy-yet-hard rap music.
As Meechy Darko was quick to point out, this is their first tour as a headliner—and it was evident from their performance, which was a mix of energy and technical difficulties.
The kids from Flatbush were out there having the time of their lives, dancing on stage, snarling out their lines with serious force. Shortly after they had begun, a kid jumped off on stage and started dancing. Meechy Darko immediately shoved him back into the crowd with a promise to smack him in the face if he returned.
The crowd loved the confrontational attitude and Meechy fed off it, becoming more and more animated as the show went on.
After running through some of their more popular songs like “MRAZ” and “Palm Trees,” they shouted up to the balcony and invited Bodega Bamz to come back for a song. They tossed a mic up to him and he jumped down onto the stage in dramatic fashion to join the Zombies. Later on, Meechy Darko would one-up the Harlem rapper by climbing up the balcony, still spitting his verse as he hung from the edge, and go leaping into the crowd who carried him back on stage.
That kind of enthusiasm was what made the show great. But it also fell victim to many of the pitfalls of performances: The bass was overblown, Zombie Juice forgot a couple lines here and there, Meechy got a little overexcited about the crowd surfing.
But it was authentic.
The group and the crowd were equally stoked to be there and the atmosphere was alive and electric. And that’s what live music is all about right?
I walked back to the bus with a smile, ears ringing, fingers tingling.
No chance of falling asleep on the ride back home.
Article by Zack Sklar