On Saturday night after The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, I had the chance to experience an almost equally unique event in music: a soundclash. I previewed Saturday night’s Red Bull SoundClash: DC that featured Tokyo Police Club and Wale for The Diamondback, and was pretty excited for the chance to see something like this, despite the fact I was on less than six hours of sleep, had been standing all day and hadn’t had anything to eat.
The set up was pretty cool. A section of Pennsylvania Avenue had been blocked off and two stages had been set up. Ironically, Wale, who hails from the DC area, had his stage in front of the Capitol Building and Tokyo Police Club, from Canada, had their stage in front of the Canadian Embassy.
I got there at about 5:15 and ended up having to kill almost two hours wandering around, eating free cotton candy, eating overpriced Boardwalk Fries and trying to stay warm before the fans were let into the actual concert area at 7 p.m.
The crowd was sparse for a while despite the closely approaching the 7:30 p.m. scheduled start time. Positioned in the second row in front of the TPC stage, 7:30 came and went. 7:45 came and went. 7:50 came and went. Finally, 8:00 p.m. came and the show got underway with three songs from Wale and three from TPC before diving into the competition. The winner of each round was judged by the volume of the crowd in between each round.
TPC won the first round which was covering Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” before Wale came back to win the second round, which consisted of finishing the other band’s songs. Wale wasn’t overly impressive during this round, with an extremely long and awkward pause before finishing TPC’s “Wait Up (Boots of Danger).” But nonetheless, Wale had a 2-1 lead after two rounds.
The third round showcased the bands’ abilities to switch up their musical styles. TPC performed “End of a Spark” in a country western style, “Nature of the Experiment” in a punk style and “Breakneck Speed” in reggae style, while Wale did his hit “Chillin'” in country western and “Nike Boots” in punk style reminiscent of DC’s Bad Brains. These remixes were entertaining and probably the coolest part of the performance, although “End of a Spark” already has a bit of a country twang to it. The punk style for “Nature of the Experiment” seemed to just be playing really fast and having lots of feedback, but the reggae style for “Breakneck Speed” was probably the best song of the night. TPC took this round for a commanding 4-2 lead heading into the last round.
Wale won the last round which consisted of a guest joining the acts on stage, but it was only worth one point, so TPC won 4-3. Wale had Tabi appear while TPC had Boston’s Akrobatik guest on “Your English Is Good.” Both acts jammed on the stage for an extended amount of time in front of the Capitol to cap the night off.
TPC’s win was definitely surprising, as Wale had the home field and home crowd advantage. At most junctures, it felt like the TPC crowd was only about five or six people deep, while Wale’s crowd took up about half of the area. The measuring of the crowd noise seemed less than scientific and the volumes were often almost equal. Even being right in the middle of TPC’s crowd, Wale’s crowd still sounded louder, but hey, I’m not going to complain.
Obviously this happened four days ago so I’m writing a lot less than I could, but it is still an interesting and pretty cool event. The one downside or just overall weird aspect of the event was the fact that was indeed a corporate event. The Red Bull name was plastered everywhere, plus all there was to drink was Red Bull or water. Ford was also a major sponsor, promoting its new Fiesta model of car, and I have about eight pairs of sunglasses that say “Ford Fiesta” on the side. I’m sure this was just unusual to me because it was my first time at something like this, but that being said, I can still see myself getting used to events like this (minus expensive food, of course).
Also, rally towels. Every show needs rally towels.
But overall, SoundClash was a positive experience, plus I got to see two acts I’m definitely interested in seeing.
View more pictures here over at the Picasa.