Last Night: Whild Peach with Bayonics at Red Devil Lounge
(Click the pic for a photo slideshow)
The funk phenomenon known as Whild Peach hails from Decatur, Georgia (neighbor to Atlanta), where it has been one of the most important yet least documented live groups to influence that region’s rap scene as a frequent session and touring band for the multi-platinum selling supernova called OutKast. It was most recently featured on the haunting song “Mutron Angel” on Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s Idlewild soundtrack. And since OutKast is not expected to tour together any millennium soon, seeing Whild Peach live is just about the closest one can get short of catching a solo gig in the South from Big Boi.
The intimate setting of the Red Devil Lounge was a good choice for the show. Too bad no one came.
This, its first appearance in San Francisco, must have been bittersweet, and not just because of the low turnout. Whild Peach’s fierce and vibrant lead singer, the late Myrna “Screechy Peach” Crenshaw was not there to celebrate landing on the West Coast. (Crenshaw succumbed to breast cancer in April.)
S.F.’s Bayonics opened, playing to a nearly empty room with consummate passion and enthusiasm. These dudes love to play and are obvious students of a wide range of musical forms, from jazz and swing to merengue, reggae and hip-hop—all of which were flexed in full effect. The freakishly warm (ooh, 70s!) weather of the day apparently inspired them to pen a short ditty called “Just Another Day in Sunny Northern California.” Keep an ear out for this group, which often plays at Elbo Room and deserves much wider attention. The ultimate compliment: Bayonics inspired this one dude to conduct invisible symphonies, which he combined with the oh-so-hyphy maneuver of popping his collar to the beat.
Any thoughts that Whild Peach might come with a melancholy performance were dashed with a rousing rendition of OutKast’s “ATLiens” with all of its Dirty South slang inflections (“Throw your hands in the a-yur/And wave ‘em like you just don’t ca-yur”) expertly performed by its MCs, collectively known as the herbalicious Fo Twinni. The Georgia Peach then busted out with a surprise litany of contemporary and classic Southern rap hits from OutKast (“Bombs Over Baghdad,” “Rosa Parks,” “Players’ Ball,” “Elevators”) and others (standouts included UGK’s “Pocket Full of Stones,” Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy,” T.I.’s “What U Know,” Rich Boy’s “Throw Some Ds,” Unk’s “Walk It Out” and Trick Daddy’s “Let’s Go,” the latter of which rocks a mean guitar riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”). KMEL loves most of these songs, but they don’t sound nearly so alive on the radio.
But the most astonishing highlight, the one that ached for more people to hear, was a bombastic cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” It was the only hint of possible dedication to Screechy Peach.
The Bay Area is a place where you can practically get a degree in Mothership scholastics. Really! Professor extraordinaire Rickey Vincent teaches “History of Funk” courses both at UC Berkeley and City College of San Francisco and schools listeners every week on the KPFA radio show of the same name.
But the attendance at the Red Devil Lounge last night was a clear disappointment. Only a few dozen folks were in the house at the peak (and there are 11 members in Bayonics). Frankly, it is cause to be a bit ashamed of San Francisco. In a city of self-proclaimed hipsters, that there weren’t more people out digging for the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk is sad.
Personal Bias: I literally wrote the first book on Southern rap, and I get it crunk.
Random Detail: Whild Peach’s bass drum had a platinum-tinted spinning tire rim on it, which was both fly and flashy.
By the way: The music even sounds great from the Red Devil loo (uh, that’s the bathroom), stage left.