Sometimes shows feel like déjà vu. Three years ago Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic (really Hail Mary Mallon) came to the Barrymore with a DJ in tow. That time around the DJ was DJ Big Wiz, this time it’s DJ Abilities. One would be forgiven for thinking time is a flat circle, as a luminary detective once said, except for the addition of opener Homeboy Sandman this time around.
Make no mistake, this is a good thing. The last concert Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic rocked at the Barrymore was a blast. DJ Big Wiz proved to be a master of the wheels of steel and got the crowd good and ready for the headliners. Performing a sort of hybrid co-headliner/rap group set, the two MCs swapped solo tracks, each acting as the hype man for the other’s verses, and sprinkled in a couple of the then-new Hail Mary Mallon tracks from 2011’s Are You Gonna Eat That? It was amazing to see two underground legends perform together as on without ego. The only thing hinting that Aesop was the true headliner was his encore of “Daylight/Nightlight”, which happened to be the only non-Skelethon track Aesop performed.
For this Barrymore appearance, expect variations on the theme as opposed to a dramatic departure. The addition of Homeboy Sandman as the first opener will most likely be the most significant departure, as his music is dramatically more laid back than that of either headliner. Homeboy might be most famous for his Gawker-published essay “Black People Are Cowards”, a controversial response to the Donald Sterling scandal, but do not get fooled into thinking that the fire of that piece is reflected in his rhymes. Instead of righteous anger, Homeboy’s music mainly consists of laid-back grooves and relaxed, contemplative verses. Fans of the NYC jazz-rap scene will be satisfied, but are warned that the rest of the show will be a dramatic departure.
The rest of the show should follow the same recipe as before. DJ Abilities will engage in the turntable wizardry to which fans of the late Eyedea & Abilities (R.I.P. Eyedea) have grown accustomed. There is no doubt Abilities will be able to get the crowd moving just like Big Wiz did years ago.
As for the headliners, it’s a safe bet that they’ll return to the shared headliner set setup (the Barrymore’s fliers make this pretty clear). That being said, the duo will have more material with which to work than they did in 2012. Rob released his third album, Alice in Thunderdome, in 2014 and the duo (as Hail Mary Mallon) released their sophomore effort, Bestiary, last year as well. Neither release was a dramatic departure from their established styles, with Bestiary returning to the same dark-goofy interplay explored in the duo’s first record, while Alice furthered Rob’s eccentric raps and sci-fi rock beats. While Aesop Rock released has no new solo material since 2011’s Skelethon, recent set lists have shown that Aes is now returning to some of the tracks that made him underground-famous. This surely will please fans who wanted to hear the classics back in 2012 and will provide a nice sampler for other fans of his off-the-wall rhymes and head-case beats.
Fans of turn-of-the-millennium rap (yes, the millennium turned over when this style was popular) will love this show. Fans who saw the prior show and are suffering from déjà vu will be relieved to know that the duo’s expanded repertoire will reward a second viewing, while new fans and those who missed out before will have a chance to hear both old and new favorites.
Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic, DJ Abilities, and Homeboy Sandman will be performing at the Barrymore Theater on Tuesday, 2/3. Show starts at 8:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased here.