Monday, October 09, 2006

Edan @ the Empty Bottle, Sept. 21

by Daniel Margolis

     Boston-based indie rapper Edan mined the depths of hip-hop’s golden age—roughly 1987 to 1993—while still managing to sound progressive on his 2002 debut, Primitive Plus. Then, last year, he startled with Beauty And The Beat, a compact fusion of hip-hop and psychedelia, the first of its kind to actually work (with apologies to Nobody and none to PM Dawn). Edan recently started touring more regularly and puts on quite a show, alternating between acoustic guitar, kazoo, verbal sparring with support rapper Dagha and turntable wizardry that brings to mind his various mix tapes released as Edan the Deejay.

     On Sept. 21, Edan made his second visit this year to Chicago’s Empty Bottle, as part of UK-based The Wire magazine’s Adventures in Modern Music festival. Minimalist rockers Hive Mind and the Coughs, a Chicago-based noise/no wave sextet, opened. They made for a raging aural backdrop as I played Centipede and Ms. Pac Man with earplugs in.

     Thankfully, Edan was next. The rock detritus was cleared out and a long table covered with turntables and other gear was moved from the right side of the stage, and soon Edan himself was out to set it all up. He was wearing a short-sleeved collar shirt with a tie and dress pants, and just before the set started he put on an evening jacket. As the music commenced he was joined by Dagha, an enormous man with dreads who at this point was wearing a tuxedo, sunglasses and a top hat. After the first song he took off the hat, shades and tux and Edan lost the jacket and was out in the crowd rapping “Emcees Smoke Crack.”

     As Edan rapped he held an effects pedal in hand that activated an echo on his vocals (Dagha held this at times as well). Edan fiddled with the dials on the pedal a lot as he rapped, sending the mic-effect spiraling wildly up and down. Edan, with some assistance from Dagha, also handled all the DJ duties while performing; a set highlight came when he rapped a complex verse while beat-juggling the intro to “Johnny The Fox” by Thin Lizzy.

     They continued through a selection of songs from Primitive Plus and Beauty And The Beat. For “Syllable Practice” Edan rapped over the actual record he sampled on the 12 inch version of the song. His performance of “I See Colours” too drew from the originally sampled source material instead of just being performed over an instrumental of the track.

     At one point Edan stopped the set to sit down on a chair and pluck some chords on a nylon string acoustic guitar while humming through a kazoo, stating that this was to demonstrate the potential for different modes of expression in hip-hop music (really it just demonstrated his bizarre sense of humor). He proceeded to spin “Femme Fatale” by the Velvet Underground, then mashed that up with the beat from “Sucker M.C.’s” by Run-D.M.C.

     Before the show closer, “Rock And Roll” off Beauty And The Beat, Edan fiddled with the acoustic guitar a bit more before cutting over to the actual beat of the song. Dagha spit his verse (he actually appears on the track on the album) and then Edan pulled out a theremin box, hooked this into one of the mixer channels and cut up the theremin signal with the cross-fader while playing “Auld Lang Syne” by hand on the theremin.

     Finally, for Edan’s verse on “Rock And Roll,” Dagha pulled out a massive pile of record sleeves and carefully flipped through these in time with the many classic rock references in Edan’s verse. So, in short order, the crowd was shown the covers of LPs by the Doors, the Beatles, the Byrds, the Eagles, Iron Butterfly, Credence Clearwater Revival, Love, the Zombies (the only time I’ve ever seen Odessey And Oracle on vinyl), Talking Heads, Little Feat, 13th Floor Elevators, the Velvet Underground (this was a copy of the first album with the peeling banana intact; impressive that he’d even have this let alone use it as a stage prop), Elvis, Jethro Tull (on “Sing It Shitface,” Edan boasts: “My record collection consists of twenty-two copies of Aqualung”; this must have been one of them), Blue Oyster Cult, Pearls Before Swine, King Crimson (the big screaming face on the cover of In The Court Of The Crimson King), Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon), the Who, the Mothers of Invention (We’re Only In It For The Money), Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Lenny Kravitz (his face crossed out), Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath.

      Edan then quickly recited the lyrics from the last song on Beauty And The Beat, “Promised Land,” acapella to end the show.

     I hung around the stage a little bit with assorted fans buying Edan CDs and T-shirts directly from the man himself. I caught his attention for a second, so I asked him, “Are you gonna put out another mix tape this year?” He answered, “Aw, no man, I just gotta process all these life experiences first…” Fair enough.
















Edan performs at the Empty Bottle earlier this year...



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