Hip Hop Brings Back The Ballroom

Karen PonzioBefore the final two songs of his set with Anonymous Inc. on Tuesday night, Ceschi Ramos jokingly expressed his gratitude to the audience. “Thank you for coming early for this measly opening act,” he said. But there was nothing measly about this three-act bill of artists that gave the newly reopened Space Ballroom its first weekday show, filling the renovated room with a constant vibe of love, light, and sound.

Speaking of lights, they were one of the features added to the room, along with a more spacious bar and new sound system, though the room still retains its classic charms (as well as its disco ball). Tuesday’s all-ages show was the third to be presented there since the grand reopening on Friday, Feb. 2 (the first being a bill of Model Decoy, Long Time, Phat Astronaut, and Paul Bryant Hudson, and the second being the comedians Brian Posehn and Derek Sheen). The former Outer Space stage and bar area are still under renovation and not open to the public yet.

First to the stage on Tuesday night was New Haven’s own Anonymous Inc., a band that includes Ceschi on guitar and vocals, Davis Ramos on drums and vocals, and Max Heath on keyboards, joined on this night by DJ Mo Niklz on turntables and Alex Burnet on banjo and guitar. The Ramos brothers started Anonymous when they were preteens, and the easy flow between them and the others even as instruments and roles were exchanged evidenced their deep connection above and beyond the music. Ceschi began alone; then, as musical accompaniment was added, his powerful and punctuating vocals matched the intensity of the beats. A large and loving presence, both vocally and lyrically, he barely had to gesture to get the ever growing, rocking, and singing-along crowd to the stage. He jumped down into the audience for a song he said was new and for two friends, saying he wanted to be in the middle of the crowd “where the people don’t always get to see a lot.” He ended up standing on a chair to sing his song accompanied by David on cajon and Heath on a hand-held keyboard. When that song was over he did another right in front of the stage before hopping back up there to finish the set. This set also included an instrumental that Ceschi noted was “really difficult and being played for the first time,” as well as a song he introduced as a “Max song” that featured Heath on vocals.

Singalongs are a given at any Ceschi show large or small, acoustic or full band, and this one was no exception. Audience and band gave it their all for favorites “Say Something” and “This Won’t Last Forever,” both off of Broken Bones Ballads. The energy and beauty of the band easily charged the audience with enough vigor and vitality to join in harmonies and get the rest of the party in full motion.

Next to the stage was Open Mike Eagle, performing solo with sound board accompaniment. The crowd, even larger and closer at this point, appeared entranced by this performer’s exquisite and challenging lyrics that interspersed rap and more straightforward — even delicate at times — vocals as the songs demanded them. When he got to the song “(How Could Anybody) Feel At Home,” he began walking and clapping and got the crowd clapping along, but none of that distracted from the personal lyrics:

I done told
some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in the circles on the globe
so who the hell could ever feel at home.

Both songs are from last year’s Brick Body Kids Still DayDream, a concept album that ruminates on a demolished housing project on the south side of Chicago. Songs such as “Brick Body Complex” blur the lines between physical body and structure as well as what still exists within and beyond:

I promise you
I will never fit in your descriptions
I’m giant
Don’t let nobody tell you nothing different
They lying
a giant and my body is a building.

Eagle’s banter with the audience was both firm and kind, much like his lyrics. At one point he told the audience that he came to Hamden “to give advice. I’m a problem solver,” and that he would answer one question from the crowd.

“How do I progress through life?” someone asked.

“Fucking go to sleep and wake up again tomorrow,” he responded swiftly, which brought resounding cheers and applause from the entire room, including the recipient of the advice.

The final act of the night, WHY? came to the stage with the crowd already right at the front and at near capacity, waiting and ready. From moment one, Yoni Wolf and his band, including Josiah Wolf, Doug McDiarmid, and Matt Meldon, delivered a sonic excursion through a blend of indie rock, psychedelic sweetness, and folky pop that melded into its own unique genre of music, all the while layered with the charming and distinct vocals of Wolf. The music gave the audience a headlong trip through both meditative and mind-blowing aesthetics. Selections included songs from his 2017 offering Moh Lhean, recently released in an expanded edition that includes an Open Mike Eagle remix.

The crowd embraced every bit of it. Couples held each other and swayed and sang. Friends faced each other, joined hands, and smiled and sang at each other. Shouts of “yes!” and “this one is my favorite!” were heard often, and most of the crowd seemed to sing along to almost each and every song. Each band member easily traded off between instruments, Wolf himself either on guitar or percussion and sometimes without an instrument at all, delivering his vocals and gently swaying alone at center stage. After leaving the stage and then returning for an encore, the four musicians gathered at the center mic for a short acoustic set, making the large crowd and room seem intimate, and even inviting one audience member up on stage for a picture. It was an apt ending for a night in a room that holds so many memories for so many — yet is poised to create even more.

As Ceschi said, “it’s good to be home.”

WHY? continues touring through March with Open Mike Eagle joining them on dates in February. Ceschi also continues on tour which includes a stop at Lyric Hall in Westville this Saturday, Feb. 10, with Milo, Elucid, and jpegmafia.

Tags: , , , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

There were no comments