BREAKESTRA with MADLIB, EGON and PEANUT BUTTER WOLF at Lee's Palace, March 16. Tickets: $12. Attendance: 500 (sold out). Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
even when a creative and ener- getic group headlines, the best part about a hiphop concert tends to be the DJ sets before the band.As the set draws closer, a smart DJ will start to spin the biggest songs, old and new, to wind the crowd up. Crowds that will remain silent and unimpressed during even the most frantic Wu-Tang set will go bananas at the first two bars of Jeru's Come Clean or Beatnuts' Watch Out Now. Hiphop lives in the breaks, and even the Roots have incorporated a best-of-hiphop segment into their searing live shows.
Friday's Stones Throw showcase at Lee's Palace was remarkable because it carried that energy of a pre-set breaks session through the entire night. Even without a stageful of MCs telling the crowd which way to wave their hands, it was hiphop at its heaviest.
It was also a record geek's dream, one of the rare times a DJ can have the crowd's utmost attention. West Coast beat digger Egon dazzled with his box of 45s, mixing deep funk and soul with European library music.
Lootpack producer Madlib slunk onto the stage next, slyly cutting up his own beats with underground hiphop classics and even having the nerve to play the Incredible Bongo Band's Apache all the way through. More than one DJ appeared to be taking notes.
Los Angeles septet Breakestra capture the soundbite nature of hiphop the best, nailing the funky breaks from classic Pete Rock, Premier and Diamond D productions dead-on. They might have rolled into town 45 minutes before the doors opened, but the group's sense of musical timing was impeccable, banging out a 90-minute greatest-hits-of-hiphop set with dozens of seminal breaks strung together into one long meltdown.
Admittedly, Breakestra are just a very tight cover band. It's the material that matters, though, and judging by the number of hands in the air when the group slipped into the instantly recognizable riff from Bob James's Nautilus, people would take close imitation over the real thing any day.