I went to a Talib Kweli concert and a fight broke out.
Standing at the front of a packed out club during a live performance is treacherous territory for the vertically challenged, over protective boyfriends defending their date, and anyone unprepared to hold ground. Videographers and photo journalists vying for position, avid fans running on the energy, drunken patrons oblivious of themselves mixes into a beautiful Molotov cocktail of art, love, and liquor. And on the rarest of occasions, ignorance. Those in constant need of a refill are better off standing near the middle, or better yet, the back. The easily offended need not apply.
To keep it one hundred, technically it wasn’t a Talib Kweli concert. It was an Idle Warship show -- Talib Kweli’s newish labor of love with long time collaborator and soul moving vocalist Res (pronounced Reece) and Toronto lyricist/songstress Graph Nobel. The trio has recorded and performed select spot dates together for roughly three years but stepped up their exposure in 2009 with a European tour and the release of their full length offering, Party Robot (a free mixtape download). Following their amplified Southpaw performance, Graph Nobel broke down the meaning of their name for The-Quotable:
“Idle Warship is a play on words, like you have this warship that is capable of doing so much but its just sitting in space and time and can’t use its abilities. It reflects on what record labels do to artists. A lot of powerful talent just sits there. For us, we took a break from our own careers, you know, maybe sometimes we kind of felt like that. Coming together made us feel powerful and excited us all on our own, as a group together and in our own careers separately. It rejuvenated something for us.”
For core fans of Talib Kweli, Idle Warship is a complete detour from whats expected from the Brooklyn lyricist. This is dance music. This is party music. Complete with electric keys, funky bass lines, and axe riffs emphatic enough to force you to pull out your air guitar. Kweli’s sublimely garrulous flow is still on full display, but this project also finds him toying with his own style of crooning. “We just put [in] all collective music influences and we don’t limit what we’re trying to do. We just let it flow” Talib stated following their set.
According to www.yearoftheblacksmith.com (the website for Kweli’s record label, BlackSmith), Idle Warship does not “believe in labels for music” because “labels may stop you from hearing something before you listen to it.” When asked about the irony of this statement considering the fact that he is the head of his own record label, Kweli stated “Its not on BlackSmith yet. Its free. We’re just having a good time. Just enjoying the music.”
It most definitely shows on stage. Idle Warship commanded Southpaw’s near capacity crowd for all forty-seven minutes -- coercing them into their web of dance music while still making room for each member to perform their own solo jams. They moved like they were having fun. As if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. As if the pressure of performing was divided by three. Each member shined, although at times it felt like the Res and Kweli show.
The audience loved the set. Heads knocking all around. People were packed in like a Tokyo subway commute. Asking for anything more is straight Bernie Madoff (greedy). And thats when the curly brown haired girl in the plaid shirt drunkenly strutting with her boyfriend in front of me set it off.
After continually bogarting those of us up front (stage right) for position for the majority of the show, homegirl elbowed the wrong chick. While Donovan Ka5p, Niles and I and everyone else in the venue were engulfed in un-idle worship of Idle Warship, a manicured hand shot around my right shoulder, grabbing a chunk of curly brown hair, snapping back the neck of Ms. Too Toasted!
I backed up. Niles backed up. Ka5p backed up. Every guy in the section backed up. Both chicks were with their boyfriends and both of guys backed up! The two women brawled for a solid thirty-nine seconds -- grabbing hair, mashing faces, dropping all kinds of “bitches and hoes” -- before promoter Jah C and an unnamed bouncer stepped in and stopped the violence.
Dance music. Party music. Fight music. Yep, Idle Warship has something for everyone.