Last night the first Macefield Music Festival — once known as the Seattle Weekly’s Reverb Fest – brought some of Seattle’s brightest talents in beats and raps to Ballard’s Sunset Tavern. While the Weekly’s Reverb often had plenty of local indie/guitar-based offerings, it often fell way short of a well-rounded bill in this department, and Macefield’s organizers should be commended for booking three of the city’s best producers — Kid Smpl, Vox Mod and Keyboard Kid — and three heavy-hitting, fast-rising rap acts — Key Nyata, Jarv Dee and ILLFIGHTYOU – all at the same venue.
Those who showed up early were treated to instrumental sets of Smpl’s dreamy downtempo bass, Vox Mod’s syn-aesthetic audio/visual electronic wizardry, and Keyboard Kid’s #based beat selections incorporating everything from his 2007-2009 Videogames & Blunts output to a new, unreleased collaboration with fellow subgenre pioneer Clams Casino.
Recent Garfield HS graduate and Raider Klan affiliate Key Nyata took the stage just after 9 p.m., and performed a short but tight set of material from his latest album The Shadowed Diamond that got the shy, mixed crowd of attendees to pack in tighter and move more freely. Mad Rad/Fresh Espresso rapper/producer mainstay P Smoov, who helped Nyata record The Shadowed Diamond in his Pioneer Square studio, joined him onstage for his guest verse on their co-produced “We Dwell On Planet Earth,” and Moor Gang’s Mack Ned helped out for the premiere of a new track he produced that sampled the opening bars of Lil B “The BasedGod”’s far-out classic “Like A Martian” into a chant-along chorus.
Moor Gang general Jarv Dee, joined onstage by fellow Kingdom Crumbs member Jerm D, picked up where Key Nyata left off with his immensely catchy catalog of Cadillac-cruising rap anthems. Jarv’s music has always stood on its own based purely on beats and memorable hooks — ranging from the buzzing space-synth slapper “Status” to the funk-guitar-laced, Devin the Dude-esque “I Just Wanna” — and it’s no surprise that it’s no different in a live setting. The new single “High Expectations” came off particularly well, and seems to be a legitimate local hit.
Tacoma’s ILLFIGHTYOU performed without member EvergreenOne, but a self-admittedly intoxicated UGLYFRANK did a decent job guest-rapping his verses between “spitting” huge stretches of “bars” on tracks like the recently premiered “Potty” and standing atop the stage monitors to punch the Sunset’s ceiling disco ball like it was a speed bag. Even without a core member and some disruptive sound problems that left them rapping a capella at times, UGLYFRANK and Khris P (also the group’s main producer) one-upped the night’s already-great sets with one that was especially raw, crowd-involving, and in some type of way, “punk.”
With none of the hip-hop sets failing to impress, Macefield’s first year was a huge success in an area where Reverb Fest often seemed clueless — and the change in name and ownership looks to be a step forward for this festival.
Mike Ramos: @RAM0S206