M.I.A. is coming back to town. One night at The Fillmore and one night at Mezzanine. Hmmmm…an early night with a better view and a mellower crowd at The Fillmore…or a crazy late night slam dancing with fellow crazies at Mezzanine? What to do. I went with Mezzanine.
At the end of July I was able to see M.I.A. at The Rickshaw before the release of Kala. Why would she play such a small venue? It was basically an influencer party filled with 127 uberfans, press/people who knew someone who knew someone, and those willing and able to fork out scalper rates of $100+ (these categories aren’t mutually exclusive). While the crowd had as much energy the little group could muster, it was more of a crowd in awe meets an artist testing out her new material.
Cut to Mezzanine. We entered a song or two into The Cool Kids set- who I was excited to see since they weren’t at the Fool’s Gold show that I went to. One of the groups in the mix of the Chicago hip hop hotbed, The Cool Kids impart the early ’90s style of KRS-One with some DJ Screw robo-tripping elements and some really skinny acid washed Jordache jeans. Ahhhh…it’s nice to see some hip hop- we are so starved for it in SF proper. Their music is really fun to dance to, and they did a pretty good job with the crowd…who was already packed liked sardines and rife to chant M.I.A. during any quiet moment. There was some serious barriers set up, with a sizable crowd/stage separation. Perhaps Mezzanine invested in some new barriers after Justice.
DJ Vin Sol kept us entertained while we waited a not short but not long time for M.I.A. He’ a really solid DJ. During the break, what I’ve grown to know as the ‘Mezzanine shuffle’ breaks out- some of the poor early people have already gotten smashed and heated up beyond their comfort level up front, and leave; the short mean girls start elbowing their way to the front; and the rude boys with drunken girlfriends in tow drag them by the arm and try to tear to the front. It’s also the time when I get a peek at the fashion- wawaweewa, this one’s for the books. I hope someone got pictures of this.
DJ Low B and her dancer/back up singer came out, followed shortly by M.I.A. and the bright video visuals. M.I.A. hovered at a separate turntable that she would return to from time to time over the night, showing off her DJ background. Dressed in her usual militant-yet-playful cap and red feather and funky cheerleader tights, this time her overall look was more futuristic fem-bot than the hip political activist wearing a huge Darfur t-shirt at the Rickshaw. It was cool and all- the leotard and rolled up shorts reminded me of my old dance gear. The dance moves also bordered a bit more on stripper this time. It had quite a few guys up front not moving and mouths agape ogling her the whole time. I also immediately noticed that they both looked like they had dropped weight- they’ve kept a really tough schedule these past few months.
The set started out with Bamboo Banga, and the order of the rest is a blur except that she did pretty much every song and ended with either Hussel or Galang, one of which was the encore. I believe it was during Bird Flu that she did the ‘new’ trend that the jury is still out on for me- let people up on stage. Iggy Pop pioneered it, but Girl Talk and Dan Deacon are some of the others who use it. Sure, it gets people really excited- but turns into a bit of a Girls Gone Wild thing, which isn’t pretty to watch. Plus someone picked M.I.A. up and squeezed her at the end- and she’s to small for someone to manhandle her like that.
The most surprising thing that happened during the set in my opinion is that M.I.A. went into the entourage/protege pimping territory that is often utilized by Snoop, 50, and Eminem. About 5 songs into her set, she brought out another girl, rye rye, the perform. A song would have been fine, but she did about 3 and it felt a bit odd to me. I just thought it broke the momentum of the set too much. She was good and all- and the crowd was shocked when we were informed that she was just 16.
The other issue was her constant complaints about not being able to hear herself. If she hadn’t said anything, I might not have noticed the less than stellar sound. When the vocals were finally turned up more, there was more than occasional hot mic issues.
I would really like to get my hands on the video playing in the back. M.I.A. shows off her graphic design capabilities well- she has great taste and a very distinct style. I particularly liked the ones with her playing the guitar.
Overall, it was a fun show- quite a workout. I continue to expect good things from M.I.A.
YouTube finds from the Fillmore show: