Concert: Ninjasonik Hate Hugs, and Noon:30, Washington, DC
by Marcus K. Dowling
Photos by Lady Glock (Ninjasonik) and Stone (Noon:30). Written by Marcus K. Dowling
Brooklyn hip hop punks Ninjasonik rolled into DC9 last Wednesday on their east coast minitour supported by local act noon:30 and Hate Hugs for an affair dominated by solid performances, but as has been the case for the hipster trending trio, less than solid attendance. However, this isn’t to state that the group, as well as the openers did not give 110% in their performances. They did. But in a city doing so much right this year in regards to showing overwhelming support for vital acts creating new, challenging, and entertaining music, this was not exactly the best reflection.
I unfortunately missed Hate Hugs, but noon:30 were phenomenal. The DC stalwarts came onstage, and from the first note lead singer Blue S. Moon hit, the crowd settled in awestruck at the raw punk power and well honed grooves of the trio. The locals have developed an appreciative following from the area media, and have translated it, alongside a steady diet of constant touring into a live show that really portents for great things in the future if the band continues to improve and develop at their present clip. The most telling song of their 45 minute set was easily their most polished and most anthemic, that being the Yeah Yeah Yeahs type sound of “French Song,” complete with Aissa Hill rocking out on a bass guitar that growls and roars with a thundering fuzz, and Vivianne Njoku’s drums locked in producing terrific rhythm, Moon belts out the lyrics, as expected from the title, in French, with pulse pounding punk intensity. The most intriguing strength of the band is in their rampant versatility. Guitarist Hill also plays bass, whilst Moon as a lead singer has terrific vocal range and expression, just as aptly handling beautiful ballads as in growling out the punk numbers as well. These three women sounded absolutely massive and desiring of world domination by the end of the set, and created plentiful new fans by the end of the evening.
Closers Ninjasonik, hot off the heels of the release of the Darth Bano Mishka mixtape came on with great expectation from the small yet vocal throng. However, those expecting the typical braggadocio laden rap event were met smack dab with a set that starts with rage filled shoegazing to Devo’s “Gates of Steel” and fitfully meanders in a bizarre realm of stream of consciousness to ending with an energetic rap cover of Matt and Kim’s “Daylight.” Telli Federline, Jah Jah and DJ Teenwolf are all vastly charismatic individuals in their own way. Telli, the hyperkinetic emcee willing to flow over anything. Jah Jah the loveable and lyrically capable hypeman with more skills than you would expect from initial view, and Teenwolf, the greasy haired white DJ with skills who keeps the whole thing together, crashing together the variable elements of the Ninjasonik experience and creating gold from straw like Rumplestilskin where anyone else would see something completely ridiculous, absurd and lacking artistic merit.
Ninjasonik, much like a group that I oft compare them to, the Beastie Boys, are more a live performance experience than the intentionally barely polished funloving rap/punk hybrid they appear on record. For instance, in performing mashup with power punk act The Death Set “Negative Thinking (About Tight Pants), they call onstage a young man wearing a Death Set t-shirt who belts out the chorus in a manner consistent with the Death Set’s diminutive sparkplug Johnny Siera. Or, keeping an ever constant onstage banter that really gives you a peek into their bizarre universe that creates such jams as the now infamous by video “Pregnant,” (which, in this author’s opinion, is an underground hit waiting to happen, as chanting the chorus “somebody’s gonna get pregnant,” is a ridiculously fun and absurd time) there’s a certain unintentional vulnerability and openness that is oft endemic to the punk rock community that is part of seeing this group live, as opposed to listening to the recording.
If anything, Ninjasonik, as well as numerous other punk leaning, DIY attitude espousing hipster/punk bands and groups all reach the same problem in encountering the mainstream. The Ninjasonik show absolutely works in front of small crowds of people intimately acquainted with the style and scene the music creates. However, in aiming to do more than what they are doing, and increasing fanbases, the loose, funloving nature can stay, but there needs to be attention paid to tailoring performances and charisma to reach thousands, not hundreds. In many ways, in creating the mixtape, Ninjasonik has begun to address this issue. Telli’s “Hold the Line” is one of the standout hip hop performances of the year and did wonders in validating the band to numerous populations. In performing it unwittingly as an encore, there seems to be a belief growing that times are changing for the act, and that the proper steps need to be made to negotiate the road to stardom.
Overall, it was an amazing night. Two bands, both well on the road to success, mastering their craft with tremendous skill. Kudos.