Live Review: The Pharcyde Offers Nostalgia By The Numbers at Yoshi's

Slimkid3 shows off his solo work during the Pharcyde's set at Yoshi's.
The Pharcyde
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011
Yoshi's SF

Better than: Letting life pass by.

The early music of the Pharcyde offers an almost idyllic snapshot of the early-'90s hip-hop scene in Southern California. The group's carefree and fun nature was in contrast to the edge developed from growing up amongst the harsh realities of life in South Central Los Angeles. But modest chart success wasn't enough to keep the Pharcyde tightly bound, and its journey has been bumpy since then. Three of the original four members (Imani, Bootie Brown, and Slimkid3) have been reunited since 2008.

The group gave a pleasant show Saturday at Yoshi's, but were underwhelmed. We didn't have a bad time, or see anyone in the sold-out crowd overtly dissatisfied. Quite the contrary: many people on the floor felt compelled to jump around, whether the tempo was spliffed-out reggae-style, or faster and more insistent.

We might have expected to encounter the unexpected, which, outside from a few minutes given to solo moments from Slimkid3 and Bootie Brown, didn't really happen. It wasn't a surprise that most of the banter in between songs was focused on the subject of pot, with sincere shouts out to Oaksterdam hash and God for "growing us this blessed weed." The group even linked its own blunted tracks like "Pack the Pipe" with reefer classics like Linval Thompson's "I Love Marijuana."

And while accompanied both by a live band and by the group's DJ Icewater, the combination often seemed to be at muddled odds sonically. This sounded most frustrating during what would otherwise be highlights of the show: the two biggest songs of the catalog, "Runnin" and "Passin' Me By."

And maybe, just maybe, we picked up on a bit of tension in the group itself. Internal struggles seem to mark the history of the Pharcyde, and there was a sense in watching them that they may not really adore being together.

Slimkid3's T-shirt had a dispassionate slogan: "Drink. Fuck. Repeat." And the show felt that way to us as well.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: The group's reunion performance at Rock The Bells at Shoreline Ampitheatre in 2008 seemed to be more joyful and energetic to me.

Random detail: The crowd appeared to be largely over 30 and split fairly evenly between black and white people.

By the way: The Pharcyde has looked to the Bay Area for creative inspiration, and has recorded music with Oakland's Souls of Mischief under the Almyghty Myghty Pythons.

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