Sound on Sound: Run the Jewels swaggers, stumbles

Run the Jewels play Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest
Run the Jewels play Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest

It took less than five minutes for rap duo Run the Jewels to lose power.

Having just walked onstage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” the sound cut immediately Friday night at the Dragon’s Lair stage, to audience chants of “We can’t hear you” and groans galore.

“Everyone say hi to Jeremy, he’s the sound man,” El-P said, before asking him to turn it louder than is sanctioned at the Sherwood Forest.

It’s these guys again! The hyper-masculine, snarling rap duo that exists to make El-P seem cooler than he was for most of his career as an anti-pop backpack commodity in the early 2000s.

“So this is gonna be one of those shows,” El-P said, likely alluding to the chaotic Texas heat. “How long, out of pure vanity, can El-P keep this jacket on?”

He’s a strong producer but as a rapper seemingly knows that this band and its logo are too cool for him. So, he’s self-aware about it.

“You know rappers, it’s never loud enough,” he said after a call-and-response audience chant.

Better half Killer Mike led the converted pack of post-grad bros and tatted punks who lived “36 Chambers” and like to throw middle fingers in the sky on demand. Aggro bangers like “Banana Clipper” and “Blockbuster Night, PT. 1” went over with high energy but maybe half the innovation of Young Thug’s “Wyclef.” This is rap music for people who don’t actively follow rap music.

Underrated Memphis veteran Gangsta Boo rolled out late to add fair-and-balanced dirty talk to “Love Again.” It was a clear set peak.

Toward the end of the show, their DJ lost connectivity and the rappers ad-libbed spoken word poetry. It was a clear set valley.

“We’ve been a little busy,” El-P said. “We’ve been making ‘Run the Jewels 3.'”

The reveal was met with righteous applause. Ditto a set-closing debut of a strong new track.

Atlanta made man Killer Mike went political and clarified that neither candidate was for him. A sea of dudes who probably think those “Giant Comet 2016” bumper stickers are subversive cheered. Right before, El-P asked the audience to put away selfie sticks. Run the Jewels don’t so much shine a light as they air grievances while trying to out-rap each other; it’s a project that steers into jarring alleys about, say, police brutality. But then that El-P fella undercuts any narrative with word soup.

Also some exuberant participants smashed a Donald Trump piƱata. That’ll show him.

Author: Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is the news director of the Daily Dot, and formerly its entertainment editor and evening editor. He is an Austin 360 regular come ACL time. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor. Follow him on Twitter: @AThousandGrams.

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