Wednesday night at the Barn was looking to be a great one, as it marked the first stop on Chuck Inglish’s Wax & Roll Tour. As a fan of his solo work and The Cool Kids, Inglish’s former duo with rapper Sir Michael Rocks, you can probably guess that I was pretty ecstatic to see the rapper and producer in the flesh. It was just an added bonus that I didn’t have to drive all the way to Los Angeles just to see the show.
When I think of the Barn, I think of two things. The first is great food, and the second is a small and intimate venue for concerts of the indie or alt-rock persuasion. While I’ve been to plenty of Barn shows, I have never been to one of the rap concerts held at the venue, so I was interested in seeing the differences between the two genres and performances. Even though the Barn is a college venue, the shows usually attract more of an older audience. But that night, for the first time since I’ve been at UCR, the audience felt like it was built of predominantly college students.
The only things set up on stage were two microphones, two turntables and a mixer. There was no band or live instrumentation, just the DJ, the performers and the crowd. While the quality of a band’s performance is built from elements ranging from technical effects to instrumentation, the quality of a rap show is based on the artist’s lyricism, delivery and stage presence. The Kings Dead, Inglish’s tour opener, lacked some of these qualities and started the show on a rough note. Comprised of DJ and producer Alex Mendoza and rapper Sonny Shotz, the group formerly known as The Dean’s List had a hard time getting the crowd alive and moving.
The duo performed over prerecorded tracks, which took away from the show’s liveliness and made it difficult to connect with the performance. In some cases, the track was louder than Sonny’s rapping, making it almost impossible to hear the talented MC. As a consequence, the crowd was unresponsive at times; as Sonny and Mendoza asked the crowd to put their hands up and clap along, only a few followed, and the others just bobbed their heads to the beat until the end of the performance.
Even though the crowd’s energy dwindled, the atmosphere quickly reignited when Inglish took to the stage. Dressed in a Tigers jersey, beanie and jeans, the rapper’s presence was certainly felt as the crowd’s excitement overflowed when he walked onto the stage — but he wasn’t alone. Inglish introduced a friend he brought along with him to the crowd, a rapper known by the name of Buddy. As members of the audience turned to their friends to ask if they knew who the LA-based rapper was, those who were already fans were plainly ready for a great show.
Inglish and Buddy completely turned the night around once they delved into their performance. Buddy got the crowd up and on its feet as he flew through his set. As he performed “One of Us,” he moved all around the stage, executing his verses and dancing during the chorus. Buddy was having a great time on stage and in return, so was the audience. The crowd ate up the rapper’s outgoing personality, chanting along to the chorus of “Next Time,” as he held the microphone out to the audience.
As soon as Inglish stepped up to the microphone, the crowd’s energy was at an all-time high. Starting his performance off with “TanGerine,” a fan favorite from his debut solo EP, Inglish’s smooth delivery and old-school instrumentals had the crowd nodding their heads to the beat. Buddy played the role of hype man, moving around and trying to get the crowd excited. After a couple of songs, the crowd was dancing and reciting the lines to Inglish’s song “Keith Sweat.”
Inglish and Buddy treated the fans in attendance by performing “Contact” live for the first time. As Buddy began to sing the chorus, the track was met with technical difficulties, as an unfinished version of the beat was played. Inglish turned the situation into a positive one and used the time to get to know the crowd, as he asked what Riverside was like and used the information to lead into his next song. The second time around, the two nailed it.
I’ve seen my fair share of shows at the Barn, but Inglish transformed the venue into something much different from the usual. Whether it was Inglish’s laid-back delivery, Buddy’s energetic stage presence or the crowd’s youthful excitement, the night offered students and fans alike an unique escape from the regular.