Every year compromises must be made regarding conflicts in the Osheaga schedule. One of 2015’s compromises was to wait for Schoolboy Q and in doing so, miss Young Fathers performance. Was Schoolboy Q great? Ya of course. Did he get outshined by the following day’s hip-hop royalty: Mos Def, Nas and Kendrick Lamar? Obviously. So yes, in the end I was slightly disappointed in my decision. Fortunately, Young Fathers were back in Montreal last night and we were able to snag a ticket. Unlike bands that thrive in a festival setting, this experimental hip-hop trio work best in a dark, sweaty and intimate venue. Logically, Fairmount Theatre was the perfect location for last night’s show.
It’s rare I’m as excited, or even more excited, to see a show opener than the bill’s headliner. Since signing to Def Jam – G.O.O.D. Music (yes Kanye’s record label!) almost a year ago, HXLT have been on my radar. The genre-defying, five-piece band are fronted by former rapper Hollywood Holt, whose career has taken-off since playing a couple tracks for Yeezy a while back. HXLT’s self-titled debut, released last month, combines elements of hip-hop, electro, punk and rock into a sound that sets them apart from anyone else. The set included the majority of the album’s tracklist, with “Sick”, “Together” and “Live to Death” being notable standouts. Still a relatively new touring a band, it was clear they have not yet found the best way to transform their crisp album sound into a live setting. Nonetheless, HXLT put on quite an energetic and entertaining show. With their own North American tour in the works, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch HXLT in Montreal again in the coming months.
Young Fathers are another group who pull together elements from multiple genres to create their own sound. Through the combination of hip-hop and tribal-influenced electronic beats, the Scottish based trio aim to push their message of unity and respect across all humans. In screaming out “We are all migrants. We are all humans. White men are black men too.”, the only dialogue they had with the crowd, Young Fathers gave Montreal a peak into their minds and what they stand for. The rest of their message was portrayed through their politically fuelled lyrics and overall performance. Backed only by arguable the most energetic drummer I’ve ever seen, the three members layered their vocals to create their unique sound. The hour long set included tracks from their debut album Dead and most recent release White Men Are Black Men Too plus some treats for longterm fans off their 2013 project Tape Two. The majority of the show, including the singles “I Heard” and “Get Up”, had the crowd moshing, the floor shaking and made the between song silence awkward and tough to bear. The show closed with their most recent single “Shame”, which featured the band walking off stage as the last minute of static noise filled the venue. Young Fathers did not play an encore, but the abrupt ending to their energizing and chaotic set was a key element of their live performance. These guys are loud and in your face, but do so in a way that best represents themselves and their mindsets. If you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone, or generally enjoy forward-thinking, experimental music, make sure to give Young Fathers and HXLT a listen. Don’t push them aside like I originally did, because I can guarantee that will be a decision you regret!
Check out the video for the Young Fathers x Massive Attack track “Voodoo In My Blood”