Dumperfoo's 40th Birthday feat. Drunken Immortals @ Club Red | 1/18/13
Once upon a time, catching a wild gig by the Drunken Immortals was an easy thang to do. A decade ago, the local hip-hop ensemble of phenomenal talent and great renown was throwing weekly joints at Tempe bars like the old Arizona Roadhouse Brewery attracting in the urban art and party crowds by the hundreds with their lyrical antics.
These days, however, a DI show is about as rare as common sense at an Tea Party gathering since the swagger-filled septet went through a major jag of internal drama more than two years ago and went their separate ways like Tony Stark and company at the end of The Avengers.
Then came last night, when Drunken Immortals reunited onstage at Club Red for a very special occasion: Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper's 40th birthday.
See also: -Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper on His B-Boy Days, Working at Wet Paint, and the Thrill of Live Art - Dumperfoo on Impressing Vanilla Ice, Hanging With Snoop Dogg, and Other Hip-Hop Hijinks - Dumperfoo Quietly Galvanizes the Phoenix Hip-Hop Scene
Jeremy "Sqworm" Dana, who performs as the band's bassist, told us about how the painter's big 4-0 united Drunken's dispora, who literally have scattered around the globe (as keyboardist Chris Hill currently calls Spain his home).
"Lightning striking tonight in honor of Dumperfoo," Hill says.
What sent them on their separate ways? According to drummer Jonah "Foundation" Hurst, it was due to each of the members doing their own thing and working on the wealth of side projects that have spun off from the Drunken Immortals mothership (such as The Insects, D3f Star, and Discombobulator).
According to Dana, however, there was also a bit of a melee involved. Back in May 2010, the band was holding the CD release show for their newest disc, The Artist Lives, at the Sail Inn. While he wouldn't name any names, Dana says that kerfuffle over money ensued between bandmates, resulting in a scuffle.
"Someone got really sauced up that night and was really free-wheeling with the cash and Drunken had a real specific agenda for the money," Dana says. "So another person called him out on it, a little scuffle broke out, Jonas and I broke it up, and that sort of iced the groove for a minute. Money. Its the root of all evil and all that. It was crazy."
Tempers cooled and the band did a few concerts up in Colorado but split up. It wasn't officially dubbed as a breakup, Dana says, but there hasn't a Drunken performance since.
"That was the end of the shows right there," he says. "Chris moved to Spain to study flamenco and everyone else had other things. I tried to put together a show about a year ago and I couldn't get everyone lined up to do it. It wasn't the right time."
The stars aligned for "Uncle Dumps," however.
"Being Dumper's birthday, it was enough leverage to get everyone onboard to do the show. Chris flew into town and everyone was on board," Dana says. "So -- once again -- dumperfoo galvanizes the hip-hop scene and galvanizing the Drunken Immortals back together. It's good that a lot of people are here and can witness it."
And there were plenty on hand to catch the reunion, as more than 250 cats and kittens crowded into the Tempe music venue. Amongst the throng were a slew of such local hip-hop performers as RoQ'y TyRaiD and Joey Baggs from Society of Invisibles, art scene heavyweights like Phil Freedom of Mob Action, and even the entire crew from WTFunk? Fridays (who put their night on a one-week hiatus in honor of Dumper's par-tay). Heck, it seemed like the entirety of Downtown Phoenix's Fifth Street culture scene - including Jobot's John Sagasta and The Lost Leaf's Eric Dahl and Tato Caraveo - were in the house.
So did any of Drunken's previous drama spill over into its performance?
Not in the slightest. Instead the set began with another sort of gravitas altogether in the form of the thunderously heavy riffs of Led Zeppelin as Drunken Immortals kickstarted things with sonic gut-punch of a hellacious mashup/reworking of "Immigrant Song" with rap-laced verses. Mic Cause did his best send-up of Robert Plant's caterwaul when he and Brad B. weren't mashing up verses from the 1970s classic with rhymes about "madness, insanity, vulgarities, profanities" or how "sacred cows make the best hamburgers."
The only drama to be had came in the form of the lyrical bombast being slung by Brad B., whose utterly dizzying flows from Drunken Immortals next song "Day of the Dead" slice through less-gifted rhymers like a knife.
"Some of these fools aren't even talented/I challenge 'em to put their heart into it and make something worth listening to," Brad B. raps. "The more you're pumping 'em out/The faster you slip."
Brad has every right to dispense such braggadocious bluster, since -- as anyone who's heard his efforts with DI, The Insects, or his 2005 solo disc Drifter can attest - the man's got mad proficiency and is arguably one of the Valley's best rappers.
Mic Cause's skills as an emcee are pretty top shelf as well as he keeps apace with Brad B. on the stick, tossing out clever rhymes ("Give me a nutty buddy/Got a little nutty off that Cutty/It's true that a drunk ain't shit/But neither is rich rapper-fashion model/Pass the bottle") with all the aplomb of a seasoned pro.
DI's frontmen weren't the only one's on their game during Friday night's performance, as all four of its instrumentalists backed up Mic Cause's verse from "Day of the Dead" claiming "Yeah that's the joint/The band is on point." Hill expertly alternated between the keys and his six-string while Hurst banged the skins with all the muscle he could muster. (After the gig, he informed me that by the second song his "arms were going fucking crazy.")
The Immortals spent most of the set rolling through a setlist consisting of mostly songs from The Artist Lives, as well as material from their fantastic 2006 disc Hot Concrete (including a punky version of the titular track called "Mosquito"). Joining them for a special appearance was Camille Sledge. The local R&B chanteuse, a member of the same clan that spawned legendary '70s act Sister Sledge, lent her silken voice to the energetic milieu as a backup vocalist.
Then there was the eight member of the Drunken Immortals entourage, the birthday boy himself, crouched on one knee over in the left corner of the stage. The now middle-aged artist was blissfully quiet as the rest of the Drunken Immortals crew was enormously raucous while he quickly brushed lime green and bright orange pigment all over a 3x5 canvas already etched with a penciled-in design to help bring one of his trademark skull painting to life.
From what we witnessed, it seemed like the only time he paused from his paintwork was when DI brought aboard a few special guests midway through the gig, a few folks from the Furious Styles Collective. Nine members of the venerated local urban dance crew -- including founder Edson "House" Magana and a couple of pre-pubescent members of the FSC - strolled onstage and began laying down some quite epic and eyecatching moves.
As Brad B. and Mic Cause spat a special b-boy version of the track "Monkey Dinosaur Human Robot," the Furious Style stars formed a half-circle cypher and wowed the crowd with the sort of popping, locking, crumping, and unbelievable maneuvers that have made them famous. The best part of the show was made even better when Sledge started freestyling an even funkier version of Blondie's "Rapture" with her angelic pipes during the dance session.
The Drunken Immortals' hour-long performance built to a rather heartfelt climax to end the night as Bill Withers' 1972 soul classic "Lean On Me was cued up and both the rappers, Dumperfoo and the rest of the band, and pretty much the entire Club Red crowd sung along in a show of unity.
Set List 1. "Immigrant Song" Mashup 2. "Day of the Dead" 3. "Hell Yes" 4. "Desert Music" 5. "Red Snapper" 6. "Monkey Dinosaur Human Robot" 7. "Winds of Change" (Insects cover) 8. "Work" 9. "Struggle" 10. "We Can All Get Down" 11. "Mosquito"/ "Hot Concrete" 12. "Don't Stop the Rock" 13. "Lean on Me" singalong
Critics Notebook Last Night: Dumperfoo's 40th Birthday featuring Drunken Immortals at Club Red Better Than: The last time DI performed in Tempe (see above) The Crowd: Rappers, rockers, turntable freaks, and artsy geeks. Critical Bias: I've spent most of the last two weeks absorbing, processing, and crafting info concerning Dumperfoo, Drunken Immortals, and the Valley's rap scene in the Aughts. Overheard: After the show, one drunken chica on the smoking patio exclaimed, "I didn't know that Jonas [Hurst] could play the drums like that! Shit!" To which Hurst, who was standing within earshot, "It's funny when I get that...I've only been playing for 22 years." Random Notebook Dump: "Right now the outfit of the night award goes to the dood in the X-Wing fighter pilot hoodie."