The real deejays of Sacramento

A string section accompanies Roman Funerals at Old Ironsides earlier this month.

A string section accompanies Roman Funerals at Old Ironsides earlier this month.


Wassup, rappers:
When Who Cares? finally took to the stage (almost three hours late), Sol Collective was packed with young’uns, which meant there was all sorts of stuff flowing through bloodstreams—half-opened eyes (half-shut, if you’re being negative) attached to heads barely able to nod to DJ Whores’ opening set.

But can I just get something off my chest?

The show was supposed to start at 7 p.m. So I got there at 8 p.m., because hip-hop shows never start on time. When I arrived, an unattended laptop blared music and only a few people stood around, looking at art on the walls. So I asked the girl taking money what was going on.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just working the door.”

How American of you, I thought.

“So you work here?” I asked. “And you don’t know what time it starts?”

“I’m just working the door,” she said again, staring blankly, as if somebody had pulled her plug a long time ago. Instead of summoning my vengeful rage, I headed to Midtown for some food.

When I got back to Sol Collective at about 9:45 p.m., the show still hadn’t started. But the place was packed with girls in tight pants and dudes in even tighter pants swilling Pabst.

Man, hip-hop ain’t what it used to be, I thought, and took a seat next to Random Abiladeze and Mic Jordan, who were playing a game of chess in the back room. With rap music blaring while drunk, scruffy white people with crooked hats wandered around, I felt like I was on the set of a boring-ass Larry Clark film.

Finally, the band started with a sweeping instrumental that opened up to become a galaxy of sound. It was spacey, man. I could have stood there and listened to Young Aundee on keys and Jamal Tarkington on sax for the rest of the night as they jammed to Dusty Brown’s dark, intriguing soundscapes.

The entire room danced.

Who Cares?, former Sacramentans who now call Reno their home, is the Phish of hip-hop. That is, until Ernie Upton gets on the mic—then they become the Who Cares? of hip-hop.

Make sense?

While Upton’s voice carries traces of influence (think Kool G Rap meets Sage Francis), the group carries a vibe unto its own, transcending labels and entering the territory of art. Tarkington plays deep baritone sax samples while Young Aundee sings insanely funky soul samples. Instead of tech-savvy production, Who Cares? plays real, organic music.

As one fan, Kayla Platsis, said after the show, Who Cares? is “a mixture of the best hip-hop out of ’93, jazz, a hint of emo, ’80s harmonies [and] an emcee who always gives the crowd exactly what they came to see.”

However, the Who Cares? live show—symphonic and energetic—doesn’t quite translate to record. While their latest CD, Teenage Ego Trip (which the group was at Sol Collective promoting) has moments of simple clarity (“Cherry Boy”) and instances of odd, musical brilliance (“Fan vs Man”), it only manages to catch a small fraction of the excitement of their live show.

But their live show, which kept the crowd dancing on Friday night for the entirety of their hourlong set, is really something special.

At the end of the night, Upton accidentally stepped on a cord, which cut the music. Quickly, he plugged it back in and smiled wildly at the crowd.

“That’s hard as hell, huh?” he said, perhaps proud that he could so easily fill a room with hip-hop music. (Josh Fernandez)

21st Street jump:
A sort-of landmark deejay shuffle went down on Midtown’s 21st and P streets last week when the The Press Club’s DJ Arnold left the building—and now will deejay less than a block away at TownHouse Lounge. So expect to find Arnold mixing with Shaun Slaughter and friends at Fuck Fridays. Added bonus: The Press has a new sound system, which means DJ Whores’ every-other-Wednesday Hump dance night and DJ Larry Rodriguez’s Sunday party both have a new bump, too. (Nick Miller)