Saturday, November 12
The Distillery in Midtown will not be hosting live music shows anymore, which is a bummer, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s a shame. Sometimes, it’s not a lack of great acts or ample promotion that breaks a live music venue. Sometimes the space is just off. That’s The Distillery.
When The Zoo Human Project opened up the show, the crowd was still light. The opening act in any lineup usually has the toughest task: keeping a crowd that’s not there to see them engaged. Considering the double obstacles of being an acoustic-rock trio opening for two hip hop acts and the loud pack of barflies that seemed determined to drown them out, The Zoo Human Project did their job valiantly. Rocking some lovely harmonies and some lively tunes, the band never did quite turn the barflies’ heads, but they had everyone else’s attention with songs like “NWT” and a cover of “Son of a Preacher Man” which featured an impromptu freestyle by Bald Matt of Shades of Grey. Emcee Sho’Nuff and KSSU’s very own Cadaver the Rapper also stepped up. A good time was had by all… if you don’t count the barflies.
Blaquelisted was next, with a sound that was much bigger than the room. By now, the crowd was larger and more hyped. Emcee Sho’Nuff is a frontman with charisma and energy to spare, and the rest of the band is made up of tight, battle-hardened veterans of the music scene. Drummer Anthony Hernandez and guitarist Erique Johnson have worked together on and off for about ten years, and their experience shows. Johnson’s guitar and Chris Schrewder’s bass dominate Blaquelisted’s sound, which is a good thing… most of the time. It would be nice to hear more from DJ Joe Z, who gets buried in Blaquelisted’s wall of sound.
And then Crazy Ballhead was up.
Now, Sacramento hip hop heads have known about this guy for a minute, but I didn’t. There’s a certain joy that comes with discovering an artist, especially when it happens in a small venue. Crazy Ballhead’s energy was infectious, and his band was tight. His drummer, introduced only as Slade, unleashed some torrential drumming. The band worked best on “SNAKES”, a slower song with a driving country riff, and “We Must Learn”, an obvious fan favorite that the crowd shouted back at the stage like this was an arena show. Tracks available online don’t really reflect the vibe of the night, except for the soon-to-be released “Black Widow”, which is available on Crazy Ballhead’s website.
Even though the show was hot, I can totally see why The Distillery’s management is getting out of the live music game. The room is narrow, and the spot where the bands played is just that: a spot, not a stage. Also, hanging potted plants do not exactly create a live hip hop show ambience. There were hanging potted plants.
I hear karaoke at The Distillery is quite popular, and maybe they’ll have more luck with that. In the meantime, there are at least three great acts in Sacramento in need of a house they can pack.
Review by Lara K. Listen to The Lines and The Leaves at 2pm on Thursdays on kssu.com.