As I waited for the opening act, I chatted with two young ladies about Pepper as I was unfamiliar with their music. To this, they offered me the following notes: "It's like Blink-182 but with a nurse lady and better," stated Katrina and "If you're having a bad day, listen to Pepper and it'll lift your spirits and you'll feel better," chimed Kaitlyn. In a roundabout way, that comment best describes Thursday's concert. It was an assortment of musical genres designed for people looking to have a good time and enjoy live music.
In their 90 minute set, Hawaiian trio Pepper offered their fans a good time with their heavier Sublime meets 311 sound, enthusiastic performance and one comedy bit that fell a bit flat involving a doctor coming on stage talking about marijuana. In support of the recently released Stitches EP, the doctor theme was prevalent throughout the night from the Grand Theft Auto-styled nurses bookending the stage and the fact that the band and their onstage crew dressed in scrubs to the "paging Dr. Pepper" messages playing over the p.a. in between sets. Medical themes aside, their set was more of a engaging conversation between the band and their fans.
Each song had the audience singing and dancing along to the music. The energy given from the audience transferred itself into slow tempo ska rhythms of "Stormtrooper" and its almost hard rock bridge and guitar solo. "Your Face" used its overall catchy pop melody to involve the audience in singing the chorus. Later in the set, opener Brother Ali's DJ, DJ Snuggles, came out to perform a drummer vs beatbox battle in which a nice drum groove was performed followed by a beatboxing interpretation of it. This led to Brother Ali coming out and doing a freestyle while the band energetically backed him up.
With each number, Pepper showed that they truly enjoyed not just performing but their genuine appreciation of their fans. They poured themselves into their set and smiled in adoration as the fans provided backing vocals. Occasionally, guitarist Kaleo Wassman left the stage to high-five and hug the attendees standing against the barrier.
Despite the loss of fellow Rhymesayers member Eyedea earlier in the week, Brother Ali took to the stage to celebrate the life and love of hip hop in his 50 minute set. In a performance that could best be described as a hip hop sermon, Ali, along with DJ Snuggles, commanded and controlled every attendee to throw peace signs in the air while they bobbed their heads to his thick, bass thumping beats. As an emcee, Ali confidently rhymed over his beats without missing a step and stayed in control of both the audience and his performance during songs like the percussion driven "Tightrope" and slow bass groove of "Uncle Sam Goddamn." At one point in the set, DJ Snuggles stepped out from behind the turntables and traded off beatboxing and freestyles with Ali further illustrating the depth of talent involving his performance on both of their parts.
Compton, CA quartet Pour Habit opened the show with a collection of frantic yet melodic punk tunes. Their sound was reminiscent of early 80's Los Angeles punk combined with Smash-era Offspring instead what is labelled as punk these days. The energy of their set did not just end with the speed of their songs. During two separate numbers, the drummer drank from a beer bong and the vocalist performed part of a song standing on his head.
Brother Ali described the night as a "celebration of life" and he was right. Thursday night celebrated both life as in being alive to be at the show and the life in the music arts as three completely separate artists came together to give the audience a very diverse and entertaining show. Rarely does this ever work but on a good night, it is that same diversity that allows for a pretty entertaining show.