Born Ruffians + Cadence Weapon

Wilson McBee
Cadence Weapon

Nationality aside, these acts share very little. Born Ruffians create tight, yelping guitar pop, while Cadence Weapon is a music-critic-turned-rapper whose beats boast a lot of vintage synth and video game bleeps.

Born Ruffians + Cadence Weapon

Born Ruffians + Cadence Weapon

City: Washington, DC
Venue: DC9
Date: 2008-03-06

A blustery night in Washington, DC, brought an intriguing double-bill of Canadian up-and-comers to DC9's small, second-story performance space. Both Cadence Weapon and Born Ruffians had released albums just two days before, strong sophomore efforts that, while not wildly anticipated, have been well received. But release date and common nationality aside, these acts share very little. Born Ruffians create tight, yelping guitar pop, while Cadence Weapon is a music-critic-turned-rapper whose beats boast a lot of vintage synth and video game bleeps. Experiencing these disparate acts playing back to back is a pleasure usually reserved for festivalgoers, and audience members tonight were presented with a sort of mini-variety show of some of our northern neighbor's smartest and most interesting musical performers. Before the Canadians could take the stage, a band of local unknowns (last-minute additions to the line-up) had to be endured. The scruffy kids of U.S. Royalty have a silly name and a derivative, post-Strokes jam that was slightly forgivable given their accompaniment by a trunk-load of friends and boundless energy. Although their guitar solos proved that significant hours of bedroom practice had been passed, and despite references to Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen, the songs failed to be memorable. I was entranced by lead singer John Thornley's resemblance to a bearded, straight-nosed Owen Wilson, though; that and his tendency to use the harmonica more as a prop for Jagger impersonation than as an instrument. The half-filled room seemed mildly entertained by U.S. Royalty's shenanigans, but the loudest applause came at their set's close, when Born Ruffians' Mitch DeRosier and Cadence Weapon approached the microphone. At first I thought I was in for an unprecedented indie-rock/indie-rap collaboration -- Collision Course for hipsters. But Cadence Weapon, otherwise known as Rollie Pemberton, announced that he and the Born Ruffians’ bassist were actually going to play rock-paper-scissors for the right to headline. Cadence won the best-out-of-three face-off, and so the Torontonian trio went on first. On record, Born Ruffians are slightly schizophrenic: blissful melodies and joyful shouting battle their melancholic lyrical tendencies. Judging from this performance, there is an easy explanation for their split-personality approach. The band itself is disjointed, with a raucous rhythm section backing an introverted lead singer. Bassist DeRosier and drummer Steven Hamelin worked the room with convulsive energy and self-deprecating inter-song banter. As for guitarist/vocalist Luke LaLonde, one could say he seemed less than enthused about playing in front of all of us fans. For most of the show he kept his eyes closed and his face muscles clenched, as if he were teetering on the brink of hurling or fainting from stage fright. After repeated requests from LaLonde that the lights be turned down, Hamelin quipped that Born Ruffians “like being shrouded in darkness.” It was obvious that DeRosier and Hamelin have become adept at providing comic relief to LaLonde’s anxiety. Fortunately, their delectable songs were commanding enough to overshadow LaLonde’s awkward stage presence. The interplay of LaLonde’s reedy delivery and precise guitar runs against DeRosier’s and Hamelin’s furious slapping translated well to the live setting. Beginning the show with new album opener “Red, Yellow, and Blue” may not have been the most creative sequencing choice, but no one was complaining. Their oldest hit, “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life”, from 2006’s eponymous EP, was an early audience favorite, and people who seemed unfamiliar with the group (including still-dressed-for-work denizens from the bar who had migrated upstairs on a whim) quickly fell under the spell of the quirky rock on display. Thankfully, the band waited until LaLonde was at his most comfortable to play their best songs. “Barnacle Goose” and the single, “Hummingbird”, came late in the set, the latter enlivened by a lengthy, guitar-noodling introduction. On “I Need a Life”, LaLonde even requested audience participation, albeit in his own weird way, lifting the whole microphone stand and pointing it at us to chant the “Oh, but we go out at night” backing vocals. Next time they return to the area, I’ll be there to cheer them on -- and I’ll be hoping that LaLonde’s stage fright is less constraining. Nearly a third of the crowd vacated before Cadence Weapon went on; an unfortunate commentary either on indie kids’ lack of affinity for rap or DC citizens’ unwillingness to stay up past eleven. The dwindling audience didn’t faze Pemberton, though, for the former nerd spent the entirety of his hour-long set bouncing on and off stage, shouting sarcastic couplets in a crazed, exciting performance. Rarely have I seen rappers perform without a handful of hype men holding down the last syllable of lines so that the leader can catch his breath. Cadence Weapon needs no such help; alone on stage but for his DJ, he was able to spit it all out with breathless clarity. “In Search of the Youth Crew” and “Real Estate” (both off his recent Afterparty Babies LP) served thick slices of witty rhymes and kaleidoscopic production, the latter provided by DJ Weasel, an aptly named longhaired turntablist. Spitting out sentences such as “Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes was my idea,” “I run bullshit like a matador,” and “Hyphy, I don’t really know what that means” -- Cadence Weapon’s persona turned from bombastic to snide to outright silly, often in the turn of just a few lines. By the end of the night, he had probably shaken hands with, high-fived, or somehow touched everyone still watching. During a long passage of scratching by Weasel, the rapper took himself through the crowd to the bar in the back for a drink. Whether unwinding slowly or bouncing off the walls, Born Ruffians and Cadence Weapon gave performances that were each original and entertaining in their own ways. Bands like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade sell out most places they go these days, but the gig at DC9 proved that these lesser-known Canucks can, given the opportunity, bring it live, too.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.