Early Saturday we shared news that the Fire Marshall cut the capacity for Saturday night’s show from over 100 to a measly 50. With the fear of ticket holders being turned away due to the fact that more tickets were sold than the 50 person capacity which was put in place the night before, I showed up at the venue at 9pm sharp. So in rap time, I was hella early.

Upon arriving at the venue things seemed pretty calm. The usual crowd on the bar side drank and socialized like any other night at Kelly’s. I found myself a spot at the bar to sip a whiskey sour until the doors on the performance side opened.

Elton CrayAfter finishing my drink and taking a few breaks to go outside to chat it up, the first act hit the stage and we began to pour into the room. Elton Cray started the night off with energy on high. Bouncing from one end of the stage to the next, then hopping into the crowd, the enthusiastic artist set the bar for the evening.

Next up was young Rey Totem. Laying his lines over some pretty dope beats, it was hard not to like the young fella. Good music, nice-looking, but unfortunately, I think he may need to work on his stage presence. It’s really not an easy task, but he’s awfully young, so I have faith that he’ll get there in the future. Until then he can be the cute young light-skinned rapper that makes all the girls say, awwww. Whatever works.

Once the trio of headliners made their way to the stage, with Lunch Time Legends‘ Drae Slapz setting up their music, more of  the crowd filled into the room for the main event. I spoke with the guys before the show in a random Facebook chat and they had the revelation that they truly are the embodiment of Earth, Wind and Fire. Glenn Waco, the Capricorn as Earth. Rasheed Jamal, the Aquarius as Wind (Air.) And Mic Capes, the Leo as Fire. When the 3 perform their tracks together, you can see how effortlessly those elements intertwine. Waco’s low monotone voice set the bass as Mic’s baritone, and Rasheed’s tenor complete the harmony.

The Resistance has done a lot of work together as a group, but all have their share of solo work to show off. First up was Mic Capes, whose signature story-telling called the crowd to stand in his shoes and navigate from song to song. Shouting out his mother, who was in attendance at his show for the first time, and his younger cousin who were both celebrating birthdays, Capes’ connection with his family translated to the rest of the crowd and pulled us in.  It comes easy for the fiery Leo. Center of attention by nature, and with an infectious smile, you can’t help but enjoy it.

20140322_231756Glenn Waco’s set took us through his project Northbound. Speaking to the not-so-glamorous life of North Portland, he expressed the need to resist societal pressures and expectations that typically hold those of his demographic back. The young revolutionary artist had everyone’s fists up in the multi-cultural crowd as he took the time to  acknowledge the struggle many face, and the lives many have lost. Earth; always grounded and focused on truth.

Dojo, the last track from Northbound, was a perfect example of the harmonious nature of the group and a great transition to Rasheed Jamal’s set. Contrary to recent press, the artist hails from Hot Springs, Arkansas, not St. Johns. His slight southern draw works well with his slick  tongue, spitting about the humor and woes of social interactions. One of the night’s most exciting performers, the charismatic Aquarian, got the ladies’ attention with a love song and the removal of his shirt to finish out the show.

Overall, the show was dope despite the preceding threats to its viability. Out of curiosity, I took a quick look around the room and counted the patrons. Excluding the performers there were just about 50 people in the sparsely filled room. And a large portion of the crowd were close friends and family members of the performers, so I’m forced to wonder, what concern caused the cut in capacity? Afraid the mini family reunion might get a bit too out of hand?

How ironic that a group who only speaks of violence in order to address the harsh reality of it and their opposition to it, would be any kind of threat to the city. I didn’t feel any ill vibes at the show and the only threat in sight was the presence of two members of Portland’s most notorious gang, the Portland Police. They showed up halfway through the show and stood in the back, blocking an exit. Where’s the Fire Marshall when you need ’em? No problems in the venue whatsoever, though. Nothing but music and love.

"Sworn to Protect. Dedicated to Serve" But who??
“Sworn to Protect. Dedicated to Serve”
But who??

Rasheed Jamal recognized that word of the capacity cut, and implicit threat of police presence, limited the attendees to those who don’t fear the police. Word also surfaced that the Up in Smoke show at Cannabis Cafe received its share of attention as well. Jason Wetle, who was in attendance, shares his experience:

…what I witnessed was the fire marshal and 10 police officers walk up in a horizontal line like they were approaching a hostile mob… I did witness them say the place was at capacity and that until people left we could not come in. As soon as the marshal and police left – and mind you nobody left the party; only the fire marshal and police – when we finally went in, the place was empty. Even after all the event participants that were outside waiting finally came in, it still was not full!!! So was there talk about $$$ for a capacity increase? #IDK but it was awfully suspicious that as soon as they handled that conversation we were allowed inside and it was nowhere near capacity!” (edited for clarity)

Example after example of the economic warfare and cultural suppression being impressed upon local businesses and entrepreneurs.

And why? Why are these artists not allowed to earn a living? Why are these venues being limited when certain crowds are catered to? It’s a sad time when a young man has a better shot earning money selling dope than sharing his positive art with the community. When our taxpayers dollars allow public servants free entrance to shows and limit the number of paying customers.

I’m no mathematician, but for an example, last night’s show had to turn away potentially 50+ patrons. $8-$10 per ticket and probably $15-$50 spent at the bar per person; you’re looking at a monetary loss anywhere between $500-$3000. Even looking at the low end, that’s outrageous. The artists, the promoters, the venue all suffer. The city pays. Hip-hop struggles to thrive. Young businessmen struggle to thrive. But I guess if the money made doesn’t end up back in the city’s pockets, they do what they can to maintain our unbalanced class system and to put a lull on the life of “less desirable” cultures.

What can I say, Welcome to Portland.

I’m very happy to say that in spite of all the attempts to suppress the culture and all the scare tactics used, we continue to see successful shows. The Resistance, along with their fellow performers, put on an excellent show Saturday night. The message of positivity in the face of adversity heard in their music, rung truer than ever. I look forward to hearing more from the young artists and watching their continuous rise.