Thursday, September 1, 2011
The weather was beautiful as Shadow Lounge prepared to host the newest chapter of its Outdoor Music Series. Fencing in the Baum Boulevard block where it meets Highland Avenue, the stage was set for a night jam-packed with performances by artists coming from Pittsburgh, New York, Philly, and Detroit.
Brooklyn MC Louis Logic, who has performed at the venue several times in recent years, took to the stage during the 8 o’clock hour and entertained the growing audience with an energetic performance. His witty lyrics played favor to his amusing performance style as his enthusiasm demanded the attention of attendees.
A performance that highlighted my night was that of The Lifted Crew. With a stage full of band members, singers and rappers, I couldn’t help but think of what it would be like if members of local bands Omega Love, Eviction Notice, and the Old E All-Stars all took the stage at once. This soul/funk/hip-hop collective was a great switch-up from the mostly hip-hop filled line-up of the evening. The Lifted Crew is definitely a group worth checking out!
One of the night’s headliners, NYC-based rapper Skyzoo, took the stage around 10 o’clock. This being his first time performing in Pittsburgh, many fans eagerly moved toward the front of the stage as the MC began his set. As Skyzoo’s set progressed, so did the response from the audience. During the latter half of his performance, he rapped his song “Frisbees,” which was dope! There were audience members mouthing every word to several of Skyzoo’s songs. He finished his performance strong and took the time to network with the audience after, as did all of the evening’s performers.
The main attraction of the evening was Elzhi, an MC born and raised in Detroit, who recently released the ELmatic album. Paying tribute to the highly regarded debut album from Nas, 1994’s Illmatic, Elzhi utilized the Will Sessions band to add a new twist, along with his own touch to the album. Since its release in May, the album has been acclaimed by critics and fans.
On this night, Elzhi returned to Pittsburgh for the second time in the past ten months. He performed as a solo artist during the Rhyme Calisthenics event in December 2010. Without Will Sessions joining him, Elzhi enlisted several Pittsburgh musicians to perform as his band on this evening. James Armstead Brown took lead on the keys, with Formula 412’s Dennis Garner on drums, jazz musician Tony DePaolis on bass, G. Ryin Gaines on guitar, DJ BusCrates on the turntables, and Gene Stovall adding his own unique vocals.
The band performed the ELmatic album from start-to-finish without missing a beat. Elzhi and the band’s renditions of the songs “The World is Yours” and “Represent” were stand-out tracks. The openness of the outdoor setting, combined with the wonderful chemistry of a band that first rehearsed earlier that day, topped off with the impeccable lyricism and wordplay of Elzhi made it remarkable experience.