Bass is not the place

It usually scares me when I walk into a club, late, and the bands haven’t started playing. The $8 cover I’ve just paid won’t be returned. And on this particular evening, a recent Thursday, after a few minutes inside Old Ironsides the only thing that’s caught my attention is one drunken guy, in the corner, dancing. At first, I can’t understand why the guy is doing his dance. I slowly make my way from the bar and the jukebox and begin to hear the faint sound of a saxophone.

I realize, first, that I’m early, and second, that the guy is doing the moonwalk, but he isn’t drunk. With a combination of saxophone and wah-wah peddles, a bass player and a drummer who’s just shown up, the hypnotic sound check that these musicians are doing has quickly transported me into a trance-like state; it’s not unlike the effect produced by alcohol, or maybe some other things. Only five minutes of the Broun Fellinis’ sound check have passed, and already I’m glad I paid my $8.

If you’ve never heard of the Fellinis, or hip-hop act Socialistik, you might not be in this particular venue on this particular Thursday night. Later, as Socialistik begins its set, vocalist Chuck Taylor addresses the mike. “I don’t care how many people aren’t here,” he says before pausing a beat. Then he points at the crowd. “You’re here!” he yells. With these few words reminding everybody of hip-hop’s cultural mission to unify, the show starts—and so does the neck bobbing.

After a few minutes of messing around and freestyle rapping, Chuck lets the crowd decide the mood of the show. First, he asks: “Do you want it fast, or do you want it slow?” Three girls in the corner and the guy next to me all yet out: “Fast!” Accepting the crowd’s response, the DAT player gets switched to a faster set of beats, and Socialistik is in full effect.

Then, all of a sudden, Taylor stops again and addresses the crowd: “Are you sure you want it fast?” he asks. Meanwhile, group member Tre continues to do the Ed Lover dance (think funky chicken) in the background. Again, the same four people yell. Loudly.

The show continues for another 30 minutes and without many more interruptions. The music is loud, but it lacks presence at the bottom end. Tre kindly asks the house sound man to turn up the bass during the first few songs, but the sound man either doesn’t hear him or he declines to cooperate.

Following Socialistik’s set, it only takes the Broun Fellinis five minutes or so to set up and begin playing. As the first few notes scramble out of the speakers, I am again quite stimulated; the show begins where the band’s sound check left off. For over an hour, the Bay Area-based acid-jazz trio enthralls the crowd. And although most of the audience came perhaps expecting more hip-hop in the vein of Socialistik, the few who came expressly to see the Broun Fellinis are rewarded. So are what look like the Fellinis’ many new fans.