Ever since I heard the sweet philosophical tones of the young rapper Rory Ferreira (Milo) interviewed on The Wandering Wolf Podcast back in early 2015, I have become a devout listener of his discography. He was one of a number of American rappers working closely together and featuring on each others LPs. Those who have caught my attention most are Milo, Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle and Aesop Rock. Sadly because of a clash with exam revision I could not attend Busdriver’s gig in London back in April. However when me and Liam caught wind of Open Mike Eagle coming over to London accompanied by Milo, we could not miss such a precious opportunity. It was very likely this would be the only chance for possibly the next year or so that they would be stopping by this side of the pond, given the small scale reach of their music being outside of the general mainstream. Plus tickets were a very reasonable £10, any excuse to go to London as well eyy?
Open Mike Eagle is touring his latest album Hella Personal Film Festival which is a collaboration with Paul White who is responsible for the production. This comes as a follow up to his critically acclaimed 2014 effort Dark Comedy. This LP has been heralded as one of the best rap ablums of the 2000’s for it’s intellectually self-aware execution of, as the title suggests, humour manifesting from its sadest moments. He has shared stages with comedians as well as fellow musicians, to take a quote from an interview from Red Bull he “insists he’s not a comedian. He’s just funny”, and I would agree. It’s his take on rap music that has defined his career as someone who is not afraid to experiment and being comedic in doing so. Dark Comedy became my introduction to Eagles’ music, and coming from Milo and Driver he fit snugly as a regular in my monthly playlists. Admitting The Endorphin Addiction, Qualifiers and Very Much Money were regular eyeworms of an evening writing up lecture notes.
“I ain’t played Call of Dookie, smoke you in Golden Eye” – Qualifiers – Dark Comedy
Milo hasn’t been doing to badly himself either. He is a young man from Wisconsen who has been making ripples in the underground rap game for some years now. So The Flies Don’t Come released in 2015 had preceeded two well recieved albums – A Toothpaste Suburb and the double EP Things That Happen At Day//Things That Happen At Night, which in turn proceeded a couple of concept tapes. His nerdy and elequent delivery of introspective lyricism saturated with philosophical references originating from his major in the subject, brings to the table a multidimensional yet relatable persona which has garnerd a loyal following of fans deeply invested in the messages and musings in his music. Sweet Chin Music, The Gus Haynes Cribbage League and An Encyclopedia are a threesome of many favourites of mine.
“Yo Milo why you always rap in passcodes” – Yo Milo – STFDC
Liam and I woke late on Monday to fuel up on a couple of coffees in prep to run a few errends that would keep us busy, save getting too excited in anticipation of the evening ahead. We took a seat on the train platform at dusk to wait for our train bound for Hackney Downs. The light of the setting sun was golden and certainly Instagram worthy. Pree the link below to see the masterpiece we created using the Instagram spinoff app Boomerang.
The ridiculous part of this story is that on our first attempt to create this gif-video thing on the trains arrival to the station, Liam had held the phone at a dutch angle so suggested he would try again to re-record as the train left the station. So we waited and we got the shot as the train pulled away…as OUR train pulled away. We didn’t realise until two minutes later that we’d cocked up. Still, my sarcastic self-dig tweet did alright, by my standards anyway. Nice to see people saw the humour in our balls up!
Me and Liam aren’t the type of folk to get downheartened by such a situation. Live for the now and all that hippyness. It didn’t make us late so the snap was worth it.
A guy had got wiff of our attendance via Liam’s twitter and @ replied he would be attending too. We managed to meet him in the queue outside, he was 17 and worried he wouldn’t get in. They were asking for IDs but we all made it through no problems. Birthdays is a tiny intimate basement venue with just enough room for a bar and a stage to squeeze in a capacity of about 250 fans. I had researched the venue the morning before, learning that unless we made the effort to wear our best cool London student underground music hipster fan impression as seen in all the promo shots from previous gigs, we would be the sore thumb in the Birthdays aesthetic. I wore an oversized denim button up and brogues while liam went for sleek all black complimented by a retro adidas jacket. We both donned caps just to be extra safe.
Anyway back to the gig. We grabbed a couple of Rekordligs each to relieve us of any head nodding awkwardness whilst having a chat with our new pal. The basement was small and long so we made sure to make our way to the front early. We were so close we might as well have been on stage alonside the acts, an amazing view.
The support act was the five piece Canadian rap group Queen City StoopKids. Hell were we in for a surprise! As soon as they walked through the crowd just past my left shoulder onto the stage they saturated the room an unexpected energy and buzz. They jumped and projected on the stage like young rap groups do to catchy organic trap beats thickened by dark basslines that you couldn’t help but feel energised by. Their lyrics were inventive and in no way cliché despite referencing the common themes of rap bravado, money, weed and women. An important aspect of their appeal since their music was (I assume) unknown to most if not all of the crowd, was the repeatition of incredibly catchy and memorable hooks which we could learn in the first chorus to join in with in the rest of each song. Lines such as “I put a billy on the floor”, “Bitch I’m really Jimmy Hendrix”, “Sweat sweat sweat sweat” and some call and response stuff “When I say *London* you say *town*” (replacing * with other call/respsonse lyrics). Bascially they were sick and were the perfect support act for the night. Consider the crowd warmed.
Now moving on to Milo. He’s a lot taller than I thought, as he shuffled through the crowd to defening cheers and applause. Surprising how loud a group of 250 people can show their appreciation! His set flowed through passionate delivery of his STFDC LP, manipulating the reverb on his voice while navigating his way through the tracks on his one man band music apparatus, having a chat with fans between tracks. Once escastic clapping and whooping had winded down after each take, Milo spoke softly and humbly with the crowd, every pair of eyes fixated on his figure in silence hanging on his every word. Someone would shout out a comment which would be greeted by an effortless witty reply from Milo. Later myself and Liam would describe Milo’s replies as if he had already had an eternity to consider what he would say – before the person had shouted out – so that his response could be humourus and delivered gradually with perfect timing. Open Mike snuck up onto the stage for an appearance on the track True Nen which he features on STFDC. It was two greats at their best with Milo genuinely amped that Open Mike came on to perform his feature. The two performers hold each other with the upmost respect equally inspired by the other. Towards the end of his set, Milo stepped off the centre of the stage and into the crowd to perform a song. He walked mic in hand right in front of myself and Liam. It was an unexpected and surreal experience. We were in awe. An American super fan who had made the trip from the US was in the front row and kept piping up in the interludes. Milo played off him and had a laugh. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone more euphoric about anything or anyone before! When Milo left the stage after his forty five minutes Liam turned to me and we smiled with the biggest grins on our faces. £10 well earnt Rory!
As if that wasn’t enough, on came Open Mike Eagle striding through the crowd up to the mic. The downside of having a gig in a basement was that it had got real hot by this time with all the heavy nodding and bobbing. Open Mikes’ gentler flows at the beginning of the set were a welcome restbite of chill beats for my big sweaty face. He performed his opening track, then passed around a crown asking us all to reach up and touch it before he continued. Connection vibes. There is something beautifully symbolic knowing that at each show crowds have touched the same crown. A tangible worship to the king of Dark Comedy. Eagle operated with a Macbook plugged into a pad controller alongside two pedals for various vocal enhancements. He opened with singles from his latest album, dipping into conversational observational standup inbetween. He came across so well to the crowd raising the vibe yet again even after the two previous entertainers. At one point Eagle paused and invited us to join him in a segment of his live show called The Advice Show (taken from the track Doug Stamper) appealing to any member of the audience to share a problem or dilemma they have that he could help with. A lad piped up about how he is moving away to university and his girlfriend will be living over long distance, to which Eagle simply replied “Not a problem” and played the closing Advice Show Jingle. Good simple bant. If I had to pick a favourite track from his set (they were all rad) it would have to be I Went Outside Today… or Admitting The Endorphin Addiction, you cannot beat the guitars on that groove!
After the gig Eagle and Milo hung out to meet the crowd and sell merch, the tickets werent much they probably weren’t seeing a large cut of that. OF COURSE we queued waiting patiently for our turn to meet the raplords. First we spoke to Milo. The pressure of the situation probably got to me…I told him how I found his music and that I’d started a podcast. I bought a pin from him of a green horse that matched a tattoo of his, and asked
him to sign my cap. Liam forgot to mention that they were his caps he had designed when he spoke to Milo. Rory thought they were dope and showed Mike. He insisted he get a photo of us two posing with the signed caps. Yes. We are on a file on Milo’s phone! We were going to leave worried that we would miss our train home, but I’m bloody glad we stayed. I spoke to Mike explaining to him I was a fan of his podcast Secret Skin (go find it on iTunes its dope). There discloses a secret code word to whisper to him at gigs and he would introduce you to the Secret Skin secret handshake. I admittted I hadn’t heard the codeword, but he was gracious enough to entertain me and taught me the handshake. Very blessed. I copped a shirt and was so obsessed with it wore it for the next three days consecutively. Am I a loser? Yeah maybe. Dont judge.
In sum, hands down the best gig I have ever been to. Well, thats without comparing it to seeing Muse at Wembley but with the disparaty in scale of the two gigs it would be unfair to compare them. It was the intimacy of the venue which really added to the vibe, like we were part of an exclusive secret gig shared only with the other superfans in the room. Believe me we will be first in line on Milo and Open Mikes’ return to London whenever that may be! Moreover we will definitely be sure to keep an eye out for Queen City Stoop Kids, it can’t be long before those guys blow up onto the wider music scene soon! Check out their respective discographies on Spotify and Bandcamp. I hope you enjoyed this review. I’m no qualified music critique (is anyone though) but it was fun to relive the gig and share it with the world.