Traditionally, the smokers' porch is a social tradition at many St. Louis venues, but at the Demo STL on Thursday night, it was completely empty. You could probably make a convincing argument that the single-digit temperatures largely influenced people to simply stay inside, but it would be foolish to believe it was anything but the mesmerizing draw of the acts on stage that night. Perhaps the cold limited the crowd's size, as it was a little thinner than expected for these Bay Area legends, but they were so captivating that chatter was limited almost entirely to comments about how truly amazing the performers were.
The night started with SoulReal at the DJ table. He played largely instrumental tracks that served both as modest background for the pre-show salutations and set the mood for Seymour Awesome, who kicked off the live performances for the night. The local trio carries a laid back style on their production and an unstressed style of delivery that blends well with the music. While structurally similar in approach, each member defines their style in the lyrical breaks. While the style is mellow, they were active on stage and humorous in demeanor, keeping the crowd interested and creating an impressive tangle of microphone lines on the stage. DJ Who backed them up, using his veteran touch to add an extra element to their production.
They were followed by Mathias & the Pirates, another local act that is lead by an experienced lyricist that considers the headliners amongst his idols and influences. Joining Mathias was his regular crew of buccaneers, lyricist-vocalist Ms. Vizion and DJ LB. After releasing an album a little less than a year ago, the group has now refined its chemistry on stage and manicured the performance of each song to its highest potential. The set mixed bouncing beats and grooving jams, pulling heavily from their current album with a couple treats from Mathias' previous solo release. As it should, the set served as a great transition from the laid back beginning of the night to the excitement and intensity that would come next, largely in response to a building intensity by the night's only female performer, Ms. Vizion.
The headliner's set began without the duo on stage, instead lead by the pairing of DJ Zeph on the decks and Darian Gray on a simple but bright drum set. They started off with a few tracks featuring some classic lyricists, but the changes were quick and Latyrx was soon on stage, squelching their applause by immediately attacking the mics. They opened the set as they opened their collaborative careers, with their eponymous debut track that featured the two emcees delivering completely different lyrical verses simultaneously on top of one another.
Starting from that first track "Latyrx," the pairing of Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lyrics Born was immediately appreciated for their technical proficiency and new approach to hip hop lyricism. They quickly meshed and began collaborating on various singles and features on each other's releases culminating in the release of their debut LP "The Album" in 1997, which included the celebrated DJ Shadow on a number of tracks including their very first. While not at all inactive separately and in collaboration, it took 16 years until they finally released "The Second Album" in late 2013.
While they're touring because of the highly anticipated LP, the show was anything but focused on the newest tracks, serving up a strong sample of classics as well as a few solo favorites. In a style not often seen, their set worked in medley fashion, sometimes teasing the crowd with just a single verse from a song, they peppered the crowd with a nonstop barrage of lyrics, joined seamlessly by the DJ and drummer, both at home with the fast paced style. While impressively capable delivering complete verses, the duo is truly extraordinary when it comes to verses that travel back and forth between the two, often breaking up even single bars into perfectly timed sentence fragments.
Even with the set rapidly jumping from track to track, their performance left the crowd wanting a second encore or even a whole new set, eager for more than time could offer. Afterwards, the chatter still remained focused on the collective amazement the audience members shared and nobody seemed to remember it was cold outside.