None of the problems at last night’s show were actually The Cool Kids’ fault. Which is not to say there were none, of course, but they mostly fell under the categories of venue issues and a terrible opening act. The headliners themselves did their best to deliver their trademark style of hip hop to an upbeat and receptive crowd.
The show did not sell out in advance, but by a bit after nine when the openers took the stage, the room was mostly full. It was a diverse group – while still heavily male, there were rather more women than I used to see at the indie-leaning hip hop shows that I frequented during college.
The kids and the newcomers may not remember, but back then, in the mid-to-late aughts, one usually had to drive to Baltimore (uphill both ways, naturally) for a show like this. There were not as many mid-sized venues in DC back then, before places like Rock & Roll Hotel came into town. As much as I want to like the Hotel for filling that void, the place rarely manages to really work for me. On this occasion, the lighting was so bright, white, and clinical on stage, that the headliners had to practically beg to have them turned down to something a bit less squint-inducing and more party-appropriate. Similarly, the sound mixing was off such that the MCs’ vocals were not completely clear and the bass fuzzed out rather than delivering the desired resonant bounce.
Nonetheless, The Cool Kids carried on. From the moment they arrived on stage the crowd was enthusiastic. Clearly, these people remembered them from their EP and earlier mixtapes because as soon as they got to an older song, people shouted the words along with them, hands and mobile phone cameras held aloft. I was actually pretty surprised at the level of excitement people seemed to bring to the club with them given the hiatus the group had been on prior to the recent release of their first full-length, When Fish Ride Bicycles. The club must have felt like a claustrophobic and abrupt switch from the massive outdoor festival they had played just 36 hours or so before, but from their second song on, they seemed to fit into a comfortable rhythm on stage.