In the spirit of anything you can do, I can do better, but with our signature humility and disinterest in all of Bexar County becoming a parking lot, San Antonio is set to be one of the five cities to host the first Untapped Indie and Beer Fest, which is a curated attempt by its promoters and sponsors to bring, not the greatest amount of music and beer to us — à la several acronym-laden festivals that take place annually up I-35 — but the best music and beer.
Similar versions of the festival will be taking place or have taken place in Austin, Dallas, Forth Worth and Houston, all boasting honor rolls of bands and beers ... but none of the rest have GZA!
Known as The Genius amongst his Shaolin compatriots, GZA is considered the most prolific Wu and the "spiritual guide" of the hip-hop crew. According to a Rolling Stone algorithm, GZA was recently cited as having the second largest vocabulary in hip-hop, surpassed only by Aesop Rock, not to be confused with A$AP Rocky, for all the scrubs not in the know.
GZA, born Gary Grice, and his cousins Robert Diggs (RZA) and Russell Jones (Ol' Dirty Bastard) began their hip-hop careers in the 1980s under the moniker of FOI, or Force of the Imperial Master. Crisscrossing the five boroughs like nimble fingers braiding black, static cornrows, seeking out opposing hip-hop groups to battle, GZA was eventually signed by Cold Chillin' Records as a solo artist and was the first of the trio to step into the music biz.
Fast forward several decades and the name GZA is synonymous with the cream of the crop of hip-hop's master — of ceremonies — minded lyricists. He flows like the blood on a murder scene, laying down metaphors, similes and other turns of phrase for days and days. That's the GZA way.
Metric crochets beats that fit the group like your grandma's cardigan repurposed with a Lydia Lunch patch and Kill Rock Stars pin, all the while maintaining that thoughtful, mothball and butterscotch smell of Gram-Gram, Abuela, Mi-maw or what have you. The rhythms fit tight and cozy, while the guitars scratch and prickle: the brand tag at the back of the neck and the itchy demeanor of wool. The group is demonstrably Canadian, or at least more Northern than ourselves, sounding warm and lush among the tundra and permafrost of modern existence.
Emily Haines' vocals tackle topics of misogyny, patriarchy, war, materialism and the politics of sex and love like a righteous cheerleader, not racing toward the quarterback to congratulate him with a kiss and round-off back handspring, but with a look in her eyes that inspires the simple QB to turn tail and head for the locker room, the comfort of his equally challenged teammates and a warm shower. Haines sprinkles her tunes with coos and monosyllabic onomatopoeias, grunts hoots and uuhhhs, forging a new language of distaste for poor taste, but with a danceable femininity. A girl that makes the boys uncomfortable with her devil-may-care attitude, cussing out teachers and skipping class to hide out in the library reading the Unabomber's Manifesto and listening to Yoko Ono.
The stuttering beats and slurred, lackadaisical delivery of Tokyo Police Club's "Be Good" is a fitting omen for the state of the crowd once the band has taken the stage. The sea legs requirement for the festival fits perfectly with the band, which sounds like an Anticon Records outfit focus grouped by whine-inclined Top 40 listeners.
Shit is gonna pop off when Saint Motel takes the stage. Propelled by horns made of syrup and tinsel, cowbell, carbonated percussion and gang (more Sharks or Jets than Crips or Bloods) vocals, the disaffected delivery of vocalist A/J Jackson sculpted around the disco cha-cha-cha of the rhythm section will get the girls immediately, which will get the guys — if the kaleidoscopic offerings on tap don't hustle them there first.
Syncretizing today's bubblegum pop hits with the traditional instrumentation of the mariachi is Mariachi Neuvo Estilo. I don't want to tip their hand for them, but they do "Gangnam Style," mariachi style.
Rounding out the first Untapped Fest are two San Antonio pros with their new outfits. Nina Diaz will be performing her solo material, with a back-up band of some of San Antonio's most competent young players. Alvaro Del Norte gets sentimental and traditional with Los Callejeros de San Anto, his side project from Piñata Protest, operating as a jukebox for Tex-Mex classics like "Volver, Volver" and norteño instrumentals with his typical verve and gusto.
Ellis Redon will depress to undress with his sad-sex-synth music and King Pelican keep things groovin' on a Dick Dale tip and reminding us all that the bird is the word.
$33-$65, 2:30pm (VIP), 3:30pm, (GA) Sat, Nov. 21, Lone Star Brewery, 600 Lone Star Blvd., untapped-festival.com/san
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