DELTRON 3030 with UGLY DUCKLING and the PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, November 9. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 700. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Los Angeles underground hip-hop crew the People Under the Stairs were getting so little response from a disinterested Phoenix crowd, they began to wonder aloud, "Do people from Canada speak English?" There was, of course, no language barrier. The club sound was just so horrible that the PUTS' old-school rhymes were virtually inaudible. The mysterious PA problems -- which likely could've been avoided by a pre-show sound check -- were finally resolved by the time Ugly Duckling bounded through the curtains at 11 pm.
Although the place was still half empty, just about everyone present seemed to be there to see Long Beach cut-ups Dizzy and Andy and turntable technician Young Einstein. A head-nodding frenzy erupted the second the Duck's dookie-chained DJ dropped needle.
Loose-limbed MC Andy leapt forward, fully amped, and began a quick-paced volley of comical verbiage with Dizzy that lasted the entire set, with barely a pause for breath.
With a skilled cut-creator like Young Einstein rocking the cross-fader, there was no need for backing tracks. Bomb beats blasted in rapid succession.
The Ugly Duckling edge, however, isn't individual virtuosity, but teamwork -- apparently a foreign concept to headliners Deltron 3030. The highly touted "supergroup" involving DJ Kid Koala, producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and MC Del tha Funkee Homosapien didn't function anything like a group onstage. It was more like three simultaneous solo performances.
There were brief moments when Koala's scratching synched up with the Automator's noisescapes and Del's well-knotted rhymes, but mostly they just went for themselves. Another reason why studio projects should stay in the studio.