Do you have a yearning for lyrical ingenuity, cutting sarcasm, and witty humor in your music?
If yes, then get excited because The Palmer Squares are on tour, an underground rap duo from Chicago consisting of members Terminal Knowledge, also known as Term (Seth Zamost), and Acumental (Matt Brands). Beginning their No More Jobs Tour in September, they brought along with them talented cohorts Vantablac SOL and Netherfriends, heading all the way west and up through California to play two Bay Area shows: one in San Francisco and one in Sebastopol.
Upon entering the San Francisco venue, Brick & Mortar, Vantabalac SOL was overseeing the merch table. I walked up and blurted out, “You’re the guy from the ‘Bunk’ music video!” He reacted with a subdued smile, taking the comment in stride and greeting me. We talked about his tour experience so far, and he spoke personably, not letting on to any pre-performance anxiety. Outside, Term was stretching, dressed in tie dye overalls, limbering up for the show.
In general, I have some anxiety about meeting artists I admire, which I assume is true for most fans. I think it stems from a fear of making a fool out of yourself in front of them, coming off as awkward or even overzealous. I managed to manifest these fears in the short time spent standing outside and talking to Term. I made the mistake of discussing a song of theirs which I hadn’t fully thought through even though its title is a glaring description of its topic, which Term graciously pointed out. He then humored me with a little photoshoot.
Shortly after that encounter, Netherfriends began his set. He sports a sun hat and paisley button up while mixing beats live onstage with his pedal board, light up drumsticks, and an electric guitar decked out in flowers. Netherfriends brings to the stage a whimsical light hearted presence that permeates the room and audience while he’s dancing on stage, making it hard not to sport a goofy grin and dance as well. He seems to have a laid back temperament, but will rip you a new asshole if you interfere with his stage jam, as evidenced by his second show in Sebastopol when one over enthused and presumptuous fan jumped onto stage and Netherfriends paused his song to scorn him back to floor level.
He’s is also a huge Rick and Morty fan, selling hand stitched Rick and Morty T-shirts proudly at his shows. Netherfriends produced a highly entertaining album called Interdimensional Trap with Alex Basak featuring songs that rap plotlines of various Rick and Morty episodes. Anyone who stumbles upon this album without any Rick and Morty knowledge is likely pretty thrown off by the refrain “I only trust Mr. Poopybutthole.” Although if you’re reading this and still haven’t seen Rick and Morty, then you need to catch up with the times, and, as Morty says, “get your shit together, get it all together, put it in a backpack, all your shit, so it’s together.”
Though Netherfriends remained on stage for the duration of the show mixing live beats, Vantablac SOL shortly after joined Netherfriends onstage and began his own set. He got the audience going when he performed “Death to the Hype Beast” off of his album Civilian (2016). Featured on several Palmer Squares songs, such as “Borders” and “Bunk,” Vantablac SOL consistently contributes a high quality verse or two. His new album, VBS Tape (2017), was released six months ago and features a few songs with engaging lyrics and beats that ride the border between mellow and energetic.
The Palmer Squares went up last. They recently released a lyrically provocative six track album, Napalm (2017). During their set list they played a few from Napalm, a few from Planet of the Shapes (2016) and some older tunes. The two of them ramped up the energy levels in the room with their enthusiasm. In the middle of their set Vantablac SOL came back on stage and the three of them performed a collaboration song called “Bunk,” which excited fans old and new. The Palmer Squares then continued on to play a few more of their hits and ended the show. At both shows they received shouts for an encore from the audience.
I have had the pleasure of seeing The Palmer Squares four times, and each time is better than the last. They continue to grow their following and have even began a podcast which provides fans with the opportunity to get to know the duo on a more personal level, covering everything from concert mayhem to their politics on ass eating. The Palmer Square’s podcast is called the TPS Reports and lately has also featured Netherfriends and Vantablac SOL.
Originally, I went to the first show for just the Palmer Square’s performance, but left a fan of both Netherfriends and Vanatablac SOL as well. All together they form a wholesome group, each with a substantial amount of talent, that I’m looking forward to following in the future. The No More Jobs Tour epitomizes the point many musicians aspire to reach in their musical career: to ditch the nine to five and live exclusively off of their musical talent. The Palmer Squares have taken this leap in their career and I’m excited to hear what’s to come.
Article and Photos by Circe Ament