This Little Underground: Moonshine Bandits are an abyss of taste

Hick-hop showcase, Country Gone Wild Tour and Firestone Live

MOONSHINE BANDITS - Photo by Christopher Garcia
Photo by Christopher Garcia

I ask you to flee your comfort zone all the time, so it’s only fair I show you I’m capable of the same. A recent hick-hop showcase should prove how far I’m willing to go for this point.

The Beat

I’m a huge fan of both country and rap, but never the twain shall meet. There just hasn’t been an example in history so far that’s merged them cogently enough to suggest that there are any serious artistic possibilities there. If any of you freaks know better, then, please, enlighten me. But even if respectable cases do exist, it’s still a wasteland overrun by total shit. However, those who chart those dubious waters typically promise, at the very least, a good goddamn party. And I have seen a couple episodes of Buckwild, you know. So if I’m going outside my orbit, then I’m gonna go way out.

Enter the Country Gone Wild Tour (May 21, Firestone Live) with the Lacs and Moonshine Bandits. California’s Moonshine Bandits are in many ways an abyss of taste, blending the most obvious lowbrow country clichés with dumb, basic rap.

Oh, and they have an Asian DJ who dares to go by the name Chopstiqs in front of a bunch of rednecks. Personally, I like a good Asian joke, but I don’t like being one. And I don’t know what the Asian analogue to coonery is called, but somewhere Margaret Cho is cackling. Too bad, because he’s a good turntablist.

Whiskey in my soul: Photos from Moonshine Bandits and the Lacs at Firestone

But stereotype perpetuation aside, Moonshine Bandits are decent showmen and party-starters. And, seriously, I’ve heard worse live performances from more reputable rap acts.

Georgia’s the Lacs, however, emerged with a five-piece rock band behind them. Like a Southern-bred Sublime, it’s not like they’re high art compared to Moonshine Bandits or anything. But they’re more musical and less purely reliant on swag, capturing at least more country and Southern rock in their show. They gave a performance generous in both spirit and spirits (a big bottle of Jäger from their own onstage cooler was passed to the crowd).

Although I – like everyone – dig what I dig, I did walk away with a lesson. And that’s that indie audiences suck. Yes, by palate and philosophy, that’s my scene. But one of its worst qualities is the circumspect bloodlessness of the fans. In contrast, this show experience was refreshing because of the crowd, whose only rule was to have unfiltered fun. So go on with your bad selves. And as for stepping out of one’s box, your turn.

Because Firestone Live shifted its emphasis away from concerts and back to its dance-club roots, it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. But there have been renovations and, in live show terms, they’re upgrades. Gone is the oddly high shadow-box stage. The new, lower, more open stage gives the audience closer action and superior sightlines. The place looks great, and it’s a better live-music setup than perhaps ever before. The only thing that needs to happen now is increased and better concert programming. Whether that happens is a big question mark because of the club’s focus. But even though not many big national live acts come through there anymore, one thing that does happen there is a relatively new, semi-regular local concert series. Given the venue’s improved show-viewing conditions, it may be worth your while to watch Firestone’s calendar.

But seriously, though, enough kidding around. Back to some real hip-hop with Dope Operatic (May 22, Peacock Room), a monthly showcase centered on the actual roots and art of hip-hop. The series, two years running now, always features a full, revolving cast. But regardless of who performs on any given edition, the most likely reason it’s kept its roll is the ability of the hosts to hold it down. Resident DJs Cub and Chrono keep the night connected and the vibe nonstop with a deep music arsenal. And host D II, the electric frontman of live rap band Deaf 2 the Industry, is unsurprisingly charged as a lone MC. With a busy, complex cadence and alternative angle, he’s more pure hip-hop poet than typical rap rooster. Anchors like these are what make Dope Operatic an up-close, engaging and inclusive gathering that’s worth following.


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