Latryx talks bacon, activism and gibberish during lively show

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Real wild style: Hip-hop duo Latryx performed an energetic set at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub on November 9. Too bad not a lot of people showed up to see it. Based on the fact that three of the five people onstage during the group’s set attended UC Davis, one would anticipate a huge turnout. Instead, only about 100 people gathered in front of the stage to dance along to tunes from the under-the-radar hip-hop group—while a few dozen more sipped drinks and sat in VIP booths.

But first, Sacramento hip-hop group Destructikonz opened the show. The group’s three emcees—Floe Montana, Reflective Intelligence and Wyzdom—took to the stage around 11 p.m. They were joined by a fourth guy who appeared to be a hype man, plus a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist.

Throughout the ensuing 45-minute set, Destructikonz alternated between rapping, singing and shouting on top of instrumentals that varied from raucous power chords to more laid-back funky beats. This created an atmosphere that fluctuated between a Beastie Boys-eque show and a jazzy live performance reminiscent of hip-hop band the Roots. Near the end of the set, extended guitar and bass solos showed off the jam-band-like capabilities of the group.

Latryx appeared around midnight, kicking off its set with its eponymous song. “Latryx,” recorded in 1996, and released on 1997’s The Album, featuring the group’s two emcees—Lateef the Truthspeaker (Lateef Daumont) and Lyrics Born (Tom Shimura)—rapping at the same time. While this made it nearly impossible to isolate or understand what either of two was saying, it switched the audience’s focus from the lyrical content to the rhythm and timbre of the rappers. Lateef’s airy alto and staccato rhymes juxtaposed against Lyrics’ scruffy 16th-note-filled tenor lines sounded more like two lead soloists in a Dixieland jazz band than an experimental hip-hop group. Hard to dance along with, but fun to listen to.

Backing the lyricists for the evening were DJ Zeph, drummer Darian Gray; and then, after about 15 minutes, singer (and Shimura’s wife) Joyo Velarde hopped onstage to sing background vocals on the Lyrics Born hit “I Like It, I Love It.” This song, which the crowd seemed familiar with, kicked up the energy a notch; and Velarde remained on stage for the rest of the show. Throughout the evening, the five-piece group performed a bunch of new material off of Latryx’s The Second Album, just released on November 5. The crowd responded well to the new tunes, waving arms to the high-energy “Deliberate Gibberish,” and nodding heads along to the more serious “Exclamation Point.”

Both Shimura and Daumont engaged the audience with impromptu banter. Daumont drew cheers and a few laughs when he announced that everyone is welcome at Latryx shows, including both “vegans and people who love to eat bacon every day.” A few minutes later, Shimura explained that the group nearly canceled the show because he and Gray were both sick. If true, no one could really tell they were feeling ill. The whole set was played with enthusiasm, and the two emcees managed to lead the small-but-energetic crowd into spurts of fist pumping, coordinated jumping and call-and-response vocals.

On several occasions, Shimura singled out particular groups of people with requests that they enjoy themselves and dance more. He also poked fun at the people who “cheered for the bacon louder than the music,” people sitting around lackadaisically in the VIP booths, and the guys standing at the bar ordering IPAs.

At the end of the set—which included an encore and concluded at 1:15 a.m.—I was left wondering: Why were there only about 100 people on hand to witness such an entertaining show? I don’t want to speculate, or place the blame on anyone or anything—especially the performers, the fans who showed up, the group’s management, the venue or promoters.

Here’s how I see it: I was lucky. I didn’t have to squeeze my way through a crowd. I could easily order a craft brew, see the show from a seat near the back of the venue, and feel like I was among a bunch of intelligent consumers listening to good music—and not among the herd of drunk Saturday-night revelers heading to some of the town’s bougie nightclubs on a Second Saturday.