he does have a BLOCKHEAD

He does have a blockhead. As I walked into the Abbey Pub I caught eyes with a guy who looked only a bit older than me with a significantly square head. I looked away to show the doorman my ID and did a double-take. Blockhead, formally Tony Simon, was nonchalantly grabbing a drink at the bar, right in front of me. As the doorman stamped my wrist my eyes followed him to a table along the wall where he slumped down and continued a casual conversation with someone else. Having never been to Abbey Pub before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew it would be a small, intimate venue, but never did I think that the artist I came to see would be sitting steps away mingling with the crowd. But that’s how it was.

Personal and lax, the Abbey Pub was the perfect venue for this show. With the doors opening at 8pm and Blockhead scheduled to come on at midnight, there was a lot of room for interaction. Around 10 pm the night’s first opening DJs, Quadratic, began their set. Comprised of Colin Harris and Chris Wildman, the Kansas City natives rocked their set. Not adhering to a certain genre, the duo worked the crowd and got them moving. As deep bass beats and electronic synth notes reminiscent of Bassnectar surged from the stage they were well received on the main floor as head’s bobbed and some bodies danced. Wildman’s energy on stage was difficult not to notice as his head, covered with long, curly hair, rocked up and down to his beats. Pulling and molding beats from different genres such as reggae, electronica, hip hop and rock their set was far from stagnant. As Quadratic finished their set with their last mix, I snapped out of my bass-beat induced trance and noticed that during their set, the crowd had grown a significant amount. As more heads bobbed and more bodies made their way up to the front, Blockhead was nearing.

With the 30-minute break ending, the second opener for the night The Opus began their set. The duo comprised of Mr. Echoes and The Isle of Weight from Maywood Chicago came in with a darker, more serious vibe than Quadratic. Using the show as their release party for their album Praying Mantis the duo was ready to vibe. Easing into their set, the beat slowly picked up and the bodies on the main floor crowded around the stage. Drawing more from hip hop than Quadratic, the duo incorporated their dark bass beats with high, soothing ambient notes and a couple of verses here and there. The crowd seemed laid back as one of their tracks, ‘Eons’ off of Praying Mantis echoed through the venue with its high woodwind notes and upbeat bass hits.

As they ended their set, the crowd was ready for Blockhead. As Wildman of Quadratic conducted the beats of the interlude from the second floor, bodies made their way closer to the stage until the main floor was full. A little bit after midnight the headliner began his set. Accompanied by DJ Signify, Blockhead got behind his Mac with a vodka mixed drink and said “what up” to the crowd. With a large projector screen set up behind him flashing abstract art and various designs he began his set with a couple of mixes that boasted ambient beats and obscure electronic notes. As the crowd warmed up he slid into his new album The Music Scene and got the crowd excited. Upon arrival I was unsure how Blockhead’s set would work. As an artist that takes beats and samples from various sources, it was unclear to me how he would exhibit his music. As his set progressed it became clear. Rather than simply playing a handful of tracks in their entirety, Blockhead grabbed several different tracks off of his various albums and wove them into one another.

As the track Carnivores Unite began with its airy ambience and muted trumpet notes the crowd began to really move. As the beat progressed, a track off of his album Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book titled ‘The Strain’ was woven into Carnivores Unite and the two echoed together through the venue harmoniously as bodies bobbed and shook to the beat. Giving props to DJ Signify throughout the set, Blockhead’s energy never ceased as he rocked and bobbed his head to his own beats. Calm and collected, he was a stark contrast to his jumping, sweating and dancing crowd.

Towards the end of his set Blockhead wove Music by Cavelight’s “Sunday Seance” with Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book’s “Duke of Hazzard” for a hyped and screaming crowd. As he ended his set, fans screamed “Encore! Encore!” to which Blockhead candidly replied with “Um, well I don’t really have an encore.” As the crowd continued to shout, he said, “Ok. Do you guys want me to just play a track all the way through?” With the crowd agreeing he played “Attack the Doctor” off of his latest album. “I’ll just stand up here and drink and listen with you guys” joked Blockhead. As the song came to an end the main floor began to clear and the Abbey Pub began to empty. Walking off stage and back to his table along the wall he talked to anxious fans and was blanketed by dozens of hand-shakes and nods of approval. Although short, Blockhead’s show was animated, intimate, exciting and pulsing with energy. I’m rooting for a swift return of this Manhattan-native to Chicago for another show, to which I will once again stand front row and dance aimlessly to his ear-pleasing beats.

May 8, 2010, Abbey Pub, Chicago

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~ by frantunes on May 12, 2010.

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