Saving your life, one stage at a time

Admittedly the last hip-hop show I attended was way back in 2005 when Common came to town. Sure I’ve seen Lifesavas before, only about a dozen times, but Fatlip, Blackalicious, and – wait, who the fuck is Pigeon John?

Well, you don’t need to worry about that because Pigeon John’s performance fell flatter than a trampled piece of emo tracing paper; but to his credit he was the first on stage and the crowd was meager and difficult to hype up. Thankfully his one-man show didn’t last long and soon enough he got behind the tables and donned a DJ persona to back up Fatlip.

When’s the last time you saw Fatlip live? Probably back when he was in the influential underground hip-hop act of the ’90s, The Pharcyde. Fatlip came out bouncing with a white towel plastered to his head, but the covering swiftly flew off to reveal the iconic Fatlip’s full head of dreads. Unlike Pigeon John, Fatlip rocked the mic like an old pro – his lyrics flying off his lips in his signature lazy and slurred style. Fatlip brought in material from both his Pharcyde days as well as his solo career, all the while spitting on stage, throwing water into the crowd and beat boxing like a well-oiled machine.

Then it was the act everyone was there to hear: The Lifesavas Movement, and shit yeah it was moving. After Fatlip ducked out, Rev. Shines (DJ for Lifesavas) came out and set it off with electric enthusiasm and thick beats, both of which coaxed the MC duo of Vursatyl and Jumbo the Garbageman out of the back. Both of the MCs had great stage presence and a contagious chemistry with each other and the crowd; Jumbo often jumped off stage to get closer to the audience, while Vursatyl stayed on stage to prove to everyone at the Roseland why he’s by far one of the best MCs in Portland, if not on the West Coast.

“Hellohihey,” off their debut album Spirit in Stone, found the two at their zenith; they were full of passion and excitement as they traded verses and places on the stage. A solid half of the set was devoted to the Lifesavas upcoming album Gutterfly, which was due out in September 2005 but has since been pushed back to September 2006. All the tracks pulled from the upcoming release (“Dead Ones” feat. Fishbone, comes to mind) were smooth, soulful, dense, life-affirming rhymes about everything from “L-I-F-E,” to politics and theology. When the set was over, Lifesavas had made more than a few additions to “the family” and they left everyone who had a pair of ears breathless and full of fire.

If you have a chance to catch Lifesavas around town, do it! And when the new album, Gutterfly, drops in September, snatch it up quick because I guarantee that it will be the oasis in an often Sahara-dry Portland hip-hop scene.