K-OS With Shad @ Middle East Downstairs 10.31.10

by Dana Jensen (Music Industry), published November 2nd 2010

I hadn’t been to a hip-hop show before, nor had I been to a show on Halloween. Most of my nights of mischief were spent running around town trying to find which houses were giving out  king-size candy bars, not in the cave-like venue of the Middle East downstairs. Always up for new experiences, that’s just where I landed.

My night started off well as I was standing in the crowd, next to Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo, grooving out to the beats coming through the overhead amps. K-OS had two openers, one of which I actually paid attention to. Shad, a Kenya-born Canadian hip-hop artists casually walked onto the stage with his DJ already stationed at his tables. He let the DJ do his thing before ripping apart the stage. His third and newest album, TSOL, provided most of the set list with a few old tunes mixed in.

The lights were simple,the bass was loud and everyone was having a great time. Shad gave emitted a really relaxed, fun vibe off the stage that connected the whole crowd. He was happy and smiling through every song, appearing genuinely happy to be performing with such an intimate crowd. At one point, Shad was in the thick of it, performing in the center of a circle formed by his fans. He was personal with them, rapping to them and not at them.

K-OS, a.k.a. Kevin Brereton, took the stage with five-person band and enormous cheers from a crowd surprisingly small for its volume. Opening with a single from his latest album, Yes, he immediately followed with the always crowd-pleasing, ‘€œSunday Morning.’€ It’s safe to say that the mixture of bongos, guitar, vinyl scratches, synthesizers, acoustic guitar and a drum kit blew my mind. Every musician on the stage was a master at his chosen instrument and brought something totally unique to a stage filled with diversity.

As a sample of Phantom Planet’s ‘€œCalifornia’€ echoed through the amps, K-OS delivered ‘€œI Wish I Knew Natalie Portman’€- a song that pays tribute to the America that Natalie Portman represents- and Brereton’s immersion into that accepted culture. It was all feel-good hip-hop; the good vibes were flowing through the crowd and around the room. The lyrics were pure; they came from a love of hip-hop and life. There were times of lulls when lesser-known songs brought the mood low, but they were returned with a killer, pounding beat that got people bouncing.

Everyone knew the lyrics to the songs and was singing them loud from the heart.  I looked around and saw smiles on fans that were truly happy. They loved K-OS and were loyal to his music. Frankly, it’s hard not to love him. After introducing the band, the  front man took time to bring the band’s bus driver on stage and wish his sound guy a happy birthday. K-OS’ encore featured a freestyle set with the two openers, all obviously great friends and genuine guys. It was obvious then that Canada has more to offer than a lower legal drinking age, but also a new blend of hip-hop artists with a genre unlike the popular hip-hop in the United States. The show finished to the beat of Michael Jackson’s ‘€œThriler,’€ a classic Halloween conclusion.

For more information on K-OS, check out his Myspace.

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