Archive for September, 2011

Rock The Bells – Toronto (Review)


It was quite the concert at Rock the Bells in Toronto on Thursday night. Memorable, yes… and not necessarily in a good way.  Call it the Miscalculation of Lauryn Hill.

The crowd at the Molson Amphitheatre was eagerly anticipating performances by Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill, who were to perform tracks from each of their landmark albums (Illmatic and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, respectfully).
Nas at Rock The Bells
My friend and I reached the venue at around 7pm. We weren’t totally upset when Nas didn’t hit the stage until well after 8 (he had a 7:30 call time), because he nailed his performance. I swear this guy is Benjamin Button or something, because at almost 38, Nas is looking as good as ever. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform the last time he was in Toronto, and he did live up to expectations this time around. Backed by DJ Premier and Pete Rock, Nas was full of energy, rapped with passion, used up a lot of the stage, and genuinely looked as though he was happy to be here.

Then comes Ms. Lauryn Hill. I admit, it was Lauryn that I really bought my ticket for, as I missed the chance to see her when she was in town earlier this year at Sound Academy (no complaints though, I heard she was 3 hours late for that one).

The first thing I noticed, besides the fact that she kept the audience waiting an hour and a half (she had a 9:45 start time, Nas was done his set around  9:20), was that the acoustics at the Molson Amphitheatre were terrible when she was performing. I’ve went to a few concerts at the same venue and had no complaints about the sound, so I’m stumped at to what the problem was. Lots of echoing going on.

And then she abruptly left the stage after the third song. I have no idea why, but she came back with a new hat.
Lauryn Hill at Rock the Bells
Practically each of her tracks were virtually indistinguishable renditions of the original. I almost didn’t recognize them until a few bars into the song.

Now I’m not opposed to an artist re-working their own songs, but when a concert bills you for performing tracks from an award-winning album, it would be nice to hear some of it the way it sounded way back when.

And I don’t know if it was me, but Ms. Hill sounded like she was singing really, really fast. When she wasn’t singing in fast-forward she kept on gesturing with her hands to her band or the stage crew, nothing seemed too rehearsed. It was distracting and I personally couldn’t concentrate on the value of the music.

You would think that for a multi Grammy award winner things would go more smoothly. Especially since the reaction from her last show  in Toronto garnered mixed reviews.

Halfway through her performance I noticed people leaving… in droves actually (thankfully those included the row of drunken, loud, smokers behind us). I’m there thinking, ‘This is Lauryn Hill. You can’t just leave a Lauryn Hill concert mid-set!’ Needless to say, I actually left before the concert was over. It was going on 12:30am and my friend and I had to catch the streetcar to get the last subway home.

I was worried I would miss something good. We left just before she broke out with some old Fugees tracks (like “Ready or Not”), and it turns out Nas came back out and performed “If I Ruled The World” with Ms. Hill (dammit!). Oh, well… at least I still have the tracks on my iPod.

I think Lauryn Hill is a very talented artist. But I guess fame gets the best of some people. Time management would be a skill to work on, esp. if headlining a concert on a Thursday night, in a city with a noise curfew of 11pm, and not living up to the expectations of fans who were wishing it was worth the wait.

“The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl”

YouTube Preview Image

It’s not every day that I run across a show that really keeps me watching… and I’m the channel surfing queen. Hence, why I think the web series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl” is so special. Because it isn’t on network television, it doesn’t succumb to the watered-down effect that frequently happen when a new show hits the air from a “based on the book/play/movie by __________” format.

It all started with a new feed “like” update from one of my Facebook friends last month. I was curious to find out what “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” was about. So, being Black… and awkward myself, I clicked the link and was brought to ABG’s fan page. Noticing the large number of fans (it was 10,000 at the time, now the page boasts over 16,000 thanks to a great social media campaign), I decided to watch one of the episodes that was posted via YouTube.

Written by, directed by and staring Issa Rae, ABG centers around our protagonist, J. Like the title says, she’s awkward… and black. J has a job she hates, her boyfriend had broken up with her, she has a love that’s unrequited, and constantly enters these hilarious social situations day after day. The commentary/narration of each episode has be LOL-ing everytime. There are so many quotables. It’s almost as if J says exactly what we are all thinking. She’s so blunt and crass about it, yet her passive-aggressive nature on the show juxtaposes that and makes it that much more entertaining.

“I get you!”
– J

“Am I the only one who pretends I’m in a music video when I’m by myself?” is the first sentence you hear from episode #1. No, J! I do that too! In episode 2 when her boss naively questions her about her new hairstyle, I was because I have to go through that whole song-and-dance routine whenever I change my hair and run into a non-Black acquantice. I was instantly hooked. Seven episodes later, I’m still amazed at the fact that somebody got it: A show was created that I can actually relate to.

“Oooo… you fancy, huh?”
– CeCe, after hearing that J is going on a “night-time date” with White Jay

Now I know that funding a video production can be difficult (hence why I veered away from the film school path). Issa Rae was able to raise over $50,000 through Kickstarter (a funding platform for filmmakers). Hell, I even donated myself. Why? Because along with the myriad of other fans I believe that AGB is a series that is needed in the media. The tweets and Facebook comments speak for themselves: there is something about J that we can relate to. And by “we” I don’t necessarily mean just Black women, but women of all cultures, men of all races, people of all backgrounds. Awkward Black Girl is a universal in its plot (we all go through awkward moments at times) yet it can also specifically hit home for a young Black woman like myself. It’s like J says what we have all been thinking (or even done) at one time or another.

Another important facet about the show that I commend Rae for is writing J without the tendencies that mainstream media has to typecast and sterotype Black women. J isn’t a hoodrat with three kids from five different baby-daddies, doesn’t wear a 12″ Remy weave, and you don’t need to understand what she’s saying. She’s a beautiful black woman, looking for love and respect, may be a bit insecure with herself, can’t really dance, and hates confrontation.

“Hair is the best thing to happen to rhythm-less non-Blacks”
– J, after getting advice from her from her best friend, CeCe about dancing.

As extreme as some of the characters on ABG can seem at times, after viewing the show you can admit that these are simply extensions of people who you may have run into at work or at school. Issa Rae is a talented triple-threat with her writing, directing and acting. I commend her for bringing such an entertaining and relatable show to the public eye. Every part of the production of AWB is done well. The storylines are refreshing (interracial dating is always a challenge to script), the cast are gems (can’t help but crack up whenever I hear “Baby Voice Darius” speak, and CeCe’s interracial dating tips were oh-so-funny), and the production is well done from cuts, angles and edits. If you watch closely you can see a few pop culture references throughout the series (such as the well-known dance-off with the characters in Save The Last Dance, or the stair scene from “She’s All That”).

The invite-only premier of episode #8 is streaming tonight. Yours truly got an invite to the viewing soiree. Episode #7 left us in a cliffhanger: What will happen after White Jay leans in for a smooch with our title character? Or will a love triangle with J’s office crush, Fred, ensue? Tune in tomorrow at 9am PST when episode #8 airs to the public. If you haven’t watched ABG yet, get on it!

“Like” ABG on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

As for now, I’m gonna get my awkward fix on!