Juiceboxxx w/ Rio Turbo @ Hotel Foster
Aug. 8, 2013
Opening up was local favorite Rio Turbo, who’s built a loyal following based on his seductive party pop beats and a live show involving a host of bodacious backup dancers, both male and female. His set still kills with those who’ve never had the pleasure, but assuming you’ve turned up at one of his many recent gigs, there’s not much new to impart. A familiar set is no problem when played on real instruments (i.e. inconsistently), but his strict use of backing tracks ensures that it sounds pretty much the same every time. Even that’s not insurmountable, especially considering the tunes are top notch, but the energy and panache of their presentation has dropped of late; where once Turbo was confrontational and controversial, now he seems altogether too comfortable.
Headliner Juiceboxxx made the move from Milwaukee to Los Angeles a while back, but still turns up on Cream City stages regularly. The iconoclastic rapper is at his best raging along with a live band as opposed to prerecorded beats and, when in town, he’s got the cream of the crop, drummer Tony Dixon and guitarist Willy Dintenfass, both longtime co-conspirators and, together, two-thirds of the superb local group Dogs in Ecstasy. Having actual musicians puts some logistical strain on the setlist, sadly precluding any tracks from his new free mixtape Beyond Thunder Zone, but they brought significant oomph to cuts pulled mostly from his last LP, I Don’t Wanna Go Into The Darkness, like “Pump It” and “21 on the 101”.
The pairing of Rio Turbo and Juiceboxxx is something of a no-brainer, but it also invites certain comparisons, which didn’t cast the former in such a flattering light. Granted Juice has a few years’ head start, and here the benefit of a backing band, but he cut his teeth performing to tracks just like Turbo, distinguishing himself mainly by never letting off the gas. The contrast was stark tonight; Turbo came off as too cool for school whereas Juice, for lack of a more elegant phrase, just fucking brought it, displaying a full tilt vitality that far outweighs any pretty faces Turbo might trot out. In any case, Video Villains psychedelic projections added a lot to both acts, and Foster’s stuffy environs subtracted some, but it all amounted to a pretty good time.