The atmosphere at Last Exit Live was just a little different than usual Friday night for the premier of The Stakes' debut record, The Stakes Music Vol.1. The jazz- and funk-infused hip-hop seven-piece brought the laid-back, chilled-out vibes of their music with them to south Central Phoenix, and it settled in nicely at the downtown indie rock venue.
Tons of bands have rolled through Last Exit and rocked the house. But for what may have been the first time ever, The Stakes came in and rapped it. "Rapped" may not usually be a verb to describe a band's performance, but I don't think there really is a better description of what Lord Kash, Zeedub, Holly Pyle, and their fabulous musicians did.
Of course, the music was hip-hop, and that was a big part of the atmosphere change at the bar, but it wasn't the end all be all. The members of The Stakes carry themselves with a certain confidence, a quiet cool that doesn't only turn on when they are up on stage, so they instantly change the mood of a room just by being in it. It just felt like a cool place to be.
The show wasn't well promoted because they locked down the venue just three weeks before the show and there was a lineup shakeup just last week, which saw DJ Reflekshin switch places with DJ Extract and take over the wheels of steel for the evening. But even with the speed bumps, The Stakes crew was still very much in attendance, and they were getting down.
The first time I interviewed Zeedub of The Stakes, he told me "we want to be a hip-hop band that can play any crowd," and after catching their full set for the first time, I feel confident in saying they are. The instrumentation is that of funk and jazz, but the guitarist was not afraid to jump into a totally rockin' solo. While Lord Kash and Zeedub lay down some of the freshest bars in the Valley, and Pyle adds a soulful R&B quality that brings it all together.
When talking to Zeedub, he let it be known that his band is looking to start getting into the local festival scene, and that they want to be considered for all the biggest shows in town.
They definitely have a polished enough sound to start making appearances at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival and Apache Lake Music Festival. But they also have big enough energy, socially conscious lyrics, and an infectious rhythm that forces the listener to, at the very least, tap their feet if not bust a full-on move.
At the release, they played their new record in its entirety in order, and in the fashion of any great live band, the recording doesn't come close to the passion of the live show. The record cannot relay Lord Kash's natural charisma, it does not showcase Zeedub's phenomenal audience interaction, and it barely scratches the surface of Pyles' vocal range.
There's an urgency to both the music and the message that The Stakes are able to convey while still coming off laid back and chilled out. There is obvious passion for the music and a dynamic energy that the band just oozes on stage, but the players just seem comfortable and at home on stage.
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