BLVD | 09.27.2008 | California

Words by: Nick Boeka | Images by: Steven Walter

BLVD :: 09.27.08 :: Slim's :: San Francisco, CA

BLVD :: 09.27 :: San Francisco, CA
Some of the benefits of human nature and forward thinking at work, when it comes to musicians, often translates to better experiences for their fans and extends their possibilities into new areas. These experiences can come in the form of a new sound or approach when writing songs. It can be additional team members, adding to what they have built, or it can be a completely new lineup centered around a leading member or core group. Sometimes it can even be a member leaving the group to pursue a solo career. Any of these angles can produce success, and when it comes to San Francisco's BLVD, the group has put their forward thinking into practice and have captured their efforts with their new album, Music for People (read the review here), just released on October 7. The album really promotes their new sound and solidifies MC Souleye's position as the fourth member of the band.

On this Saturday evening, BLVD celebrated their new album with a release party, and invited along a couple of DJs to provide pre and post-show jams to keep the party going into the late night. This arrangement was contrary to the typical setup one usually encounters at shows. You're used to seeing the headliner play last, one long set or maybe two. This evening, BLVD took a gamble that paid off, coming on around 10:15 and playing until almost 1 a.m., but was followed by another act to close the show. The effort largely succeeded, as the venue was filled tight by the band's set but dwindled as soon as the first stop in music came, despite a later act.

I arrived at Slim's to catch the last half of Random Rab's opening set, which was significantly more down-tempo than the last time I saw him. And though I enjoyed what I heard, I had a hard time shaking off my memories of the Rocky Mountain Crystallization and what I was anticipating on my way to this show. It didn't take long for me to brush it off though, as I looked around the room and soaked in the extra lights and giant white fabric globes that allowed the projectors in the room to cast moving images in a 180-degree fashion. These visual elements are becoming more of a staple at shows now, and I, for one, am a big fan of the added theatrics.

BLVD :: 09.27 :: San Francisco, CA
The headlining set began with the three-piece BLVD, comprised of drummer and sampler Dylan McIntosh, guitarist-effects king Curtis Sloane and bassist Tripp Bains (who switches back and forth between bass guitar and synth bass). The group launched into an older instrumental to jumpstart the crowd into dance party frenzy. As the song came to a close, Souleye emerged and launched into "Come Along," which was one of his first collaborations with the group starting a year ago. I was anticipating many new songs off the upcoming album, and the next string of songs delivered precisely that. New tunes "Sounds of BLVD," "Music Is Medicine" and "LIT" stand out as strong songs that will continue to evolve in the live setting into great groove vehicles for the group.

Souleye is also very much finding his place with the band. In the last year, his stage presence and his awareness of when to spit into the mic and when to lay-off has become more focused and controlled. And while I still think of him as a "900-words-a-minute" rapper, I find myself much more capable of following his rhymes since he's found his own flow within this group. His recent move to the Bay Area will only assist this rising talent from launching BLVD to the next level.

About half way through the set, the group treated the audience to a rare cover of Ghostland Observatory's "Silver City." This track is just straight-up hotness. The original cut is pretty commercial and is one of Ghostland's strongest singles. The remixed version features some new vocals from Souleye and a more exaggerated electronic sound. It was easily one of the highlights of the evening.

After that, the group's set seemed to fly by as they had hit their stride, and the forethought for the setlist arrangement was apparent, as each three or four songs led into an improvised section, which allowed Souleye to leave the stage and let the band take the audience on a sonic journey. By the end, the crowd was un-accepting of the "last song" announcement and essentially forced the band to retake the stage to close with "Stamina," likely the strongest single candidate on the upcoming album.

BLVD :: 09.27 :: San Francisco, CA
Following the BLVD set, the stage was stripped down and there was a quick announcement of a DJ set in tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. Soon, five TV sets showing various channels and movies, more moving lights and some antics from onstage "security" people dressed up as Secret Service agents were added to the scene. A suit-clad Richard Nixon look-alike in a really good mask took the helm in front of the tables and started throwing a high intensity drum and bass set. It was DJ James Christopher, who was immediately joined by KJ Sawka on drums. Let me tell you, this guy Sawka can freakin' play the shit out of some drum and bass and jungle beats. After a few tracks, the announced tribute seemed to fall quickly into place, as I was surrounded near the front of the stage by protesters dressed up as hippies in full '70s regalia carrying "Tricky Dick" signs. The rest of the set proved to be more of a visual stimulant than an auditory one. The stage seemed to be overrun by these hippies, who put on a theatrical show, where they were fake-dosing the Secret Service agents, pumping up the crowd and straight-up weirding some people out. Many in the audience couldn't figure out that this was part of the show and had these incredibly hilarious looks of "what-the-hell" on their faces that is still making me grin.

As I left the venue, I couldn't help but think that more DJ acts need to incorporate these types of antics into their shows. There's still quite a stigma in the general concert going public that says DJs and producers aren't really musicians. This evening, I could say that more people were caught up in what was happening onstage and in the room, and that allowed them to just soak in the music, much to the pleasure to the artists that were creating it.

If the last year's new perspectives and efforts are any indication of what BLVD is capable of as the new four-piece, then I am really excited and looking forward to what they will be producing in the future. Their sound is new; and takes successful elements from different genres and combines them into a new package that is sure to deliver satisfaction to many listeners. One thing is sure: their live shows are a lot of fun.

Setlist:
Gold Lion, Come Along, MIAM, Segue, Stained Glass, Endless, In the Wind, Ease That, Silver City, Vortex, Alignment, 108 Rose Pedals, LIT, Santa Gold, Moments Away, Heat, Sounds of BLVD
E: Stamina

BLVD is on tour now, their next gig is tonight (10/16) in L.A. Complete tour dates available here.

JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 10/16/08]

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Comments

toestothenose Thu 10/16/2008 05:06PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

toestothenose

Nick sounds like that show was a rightous experience. Thanks for the write-up. I can only hope Philly is treat to such a visual and auditory experience one day soon.

desert_drifter Thu 10/16/2008 08:05PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

desert_drifter

great review of a great show! i was at this one and i enjoyed the hunter s thompson tribute almost as much as blvd. check out all of the blvd you can!

lovejahlive Thu 10/16/2008 09:35PM
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lovejahlive

Anyone know a source for a live recording?

ace2002 starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/16/2008 09:55PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

ace2002

Great article. These guys kick ass! I just saw them last night at the Belly Up (So Cal) open up for Lotus. These guys will soon be having bands open up for them. Can't wait to see them again. I now have tons of images to edit from the night. I would also like some live music source for them.

RedHeaven starstarstarstar Fri 10/17/2008 09:08AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

RedHeaven

Thanks for the review! I wanted to catch the last moments of this show if Rab was playing last....I was at Railroad Earth, but thought of this show and wondered how it went off. Rab is my favorite DJ, of course getting introduced to him out in nature like Burning man is nothing short of life changing. I cant wait to check out more BLVD. SOOO happy they will be gracing LAS TORTUGAS with their much needed presence on a guitar heavy bill (great line up, but BLVD makes it even better) They are scheduled to play an early morning set at Tortugas OUT IN THE YOSEMITE FOREST, how frickin AWESOME is that going to be???? BLVD cant wait for you to cozy up with us out there!

Natey starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/17/2008 09:25AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Natey

Great band!!! Super cool guys. Expect big things.

RedMule starstarstarstar Fri 10/17/2008 03:35PM
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RedMule

BLVD's sick, but MC Souleye's gotta go! I saw them perform for the first time as the "late night" act at last years New Years eve show for Blue Turtle Seduction. They got on after 2am, when they cut off the bar, and went solid until 6am! Mad people showed up and raged it till way after the sun came up!

After that their sound completely changed, and it seems like MC Souleye has just taken over and his vocals drown out the instrumentals!

I'm stoked on seeing them at Las Tortugas late night, but I'm not sure if I can handle him at spun city AM stylee!

zzdowz Mon 10/20/2008 10:25AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

zzdowz

These guys are on fire right now.

callahanmsu Wed 11/12/2008 06:14PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

these guys lit it up at tortugas. but i agree, souleye is holding them back. these guys bring the heat, and he can't keep up. but they're worth seeing with or without him. just ignore the rapping, and get lost in the intergalactic spacetronic hotsauce that BLVD delivers