This Little Underground: Swamburger and the Social join forces 

click to enlarge glen_hansard_photo_by_ashley_belanger_3.jpg

Ashley Belanger

If you're in the local scene to any meaningful degree, you know Swamburger by name, face or reputation. He's best known as one of the city's most visible and accomplished artists in the worlds of both hip-hop and visual art. But he's always been one of the more community-minded shakers out there, and he's recently been working to move the scene more broadly as both impresario and label boss (Second Subject). Well, that ability just got a powerful new boost now that he's partnered with top indie club the Social. Between that club's prestige and Swamburger's cred and hustle, this could be a very high-value alliance.

His recent Swamburger Presents showcase (Feb. 2, the Social) was headlined by intriguing Connecticut alt-rapper Ceschi Ramos. How many MCs do you know who get down on an acoustic guitar? Oh shit, Everlast. But still, it's not common, and this guy sounds nothing like Everlast. Behind the emotional singer-songwriter guise is a rap dynamo who can torch it with a gunning cadence. It's an interesting duality that, thanks to his legit chops, clicks more in practice than it does on paper.

Opener Bleubird brought the most veteran clout. A very respected underground MC in these parts, he's a complex and original composite of identity and style. Perhaps the only defining constants in his literate, impassioned and amazingly versatile raps are humor and intelligence. But maximum respect this time to the guy for dropping a lyric for Jeff Kaplan, a formerly local sound engineer whom we just lost in a tragic car accident.

Packing major-league heat for the first time with Solillaquist mastermind and MPC whiz DiVinci to back him up, young rapper Acey Wasuto came out spitting flames with a tough, unleashed swag that rocked like an Onyx video next to these other indie cats. He's a raw talent that still needs some chiseling, but the kid's loaded with presence and electricity.

Swamburger's always got big ideas, but this new launch pad with the Social puts him in perhaps the best position yet to make things happen. So keep an eye out for anything attached to the words "Swamburger Presents." It'll be worth your while. Proof? The next one features alt-rap star Aesop Rock (March 5).

The Beat

With all due respect to Glen Hansard, it was neither his longtime work in the Frames nor the Swell Season, but rather some work that won't fully see light until next month that drew me to his recent Orlando show (Feb. 6, the Beacham). On March 17, Hansard releases a Jason Molina/Songs: Ohia tribute EP, and I was hoping to get a live peep of that material. No dice, unfortunately.

Though the bigger Molina fan in me was bummed, it's hard to say a generous, career-spanning set like this was a disappointment. Hansard's folk-pop very often lands on the soft terrain of adult-alternative. But instead of getting too lost in schmaltz, the stout but tender Irish heart in his music is a dance of soul and fire. Moreover, he's a performer of rare involvement.

Hansard is so clearly a skilled, powerful singer. But for a guy whose voice so easily commands a large room, he's very sharing with the spotlight, and it turned the show into a night of exceptional connection. For "Her Mercy," he assembled a six-piece backup chorus plucked from the audience on the spot. When one of the ladies stepped up and just owned the mic, it brought the house down. She was such a hit that Hansard immediately brought her back out alone to duet on "Say It to Me Now" completely unplugged, bringing the big crowd back under his spell. While he had a worthy female partner already up there, he just kept her on to help with the Once hit "Falling Slowly." Nice work, Victoria.

No, we didn't get to hear much in the way of the dearly departed Jason Molina's work, something Hansard could've easily pulled off with the grip he had on this audience. But we did get a robust, in-the-moment performance that even a jilted Molina fan can't complain about.


Falling slowly: Photos from Glen Hansard at the Beacham

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