Run The Jewels Live Review Photos 5

Concert or Protest? | Run The Jewels Live Review & Photos | Jannus Live, St Pete, FL | January 24, 2017

by • February 7, 2017

What a perfectly clear night for Run the Jewels to play at Jannus Live in their open air courtyard. The layout reminded me of something you might see in New Orleans with balconies overlooking the area below. People were already grouped upstairs watching Cuz kick off the show. I caught just the tail end of his performance from my spot in the line at merch table. Next up came Nick Hook and Gangsta Boo with seamless transitions between their sets. During Gangsta Boo’s set, she complained about her ex and went full Taylor Swift on his ass, telling all about him.

Run The Jewels Live Review Photos

The Gaslamp Killer spun a fusion of hip hop and acidic industrial beats, the kind of rhythms that seep into your bloodstream and make you think you might actually have superpowers. As a DJ, he doesn’t let you get comfortable, constantly chopping it up, even blending in heavy metal guitar riffs and 3 different Nirvana songs, along with traditional Syrian and Turkish music as a nod to his cultural heritage. The whole time flipping his fro around behind the turntables.

Gaslamp expanded on his cultural mash-up by saying that Middle Easterners are just like us and that we should “accept it or die.” He kept up his running social commentary between splicing up Snoop Dogg and Star Wars samples.

After The Gaslamp Killer left the stage, but before Run the Jewels made their appearance, Cuz kept coming out with bottles of water for the crowd. Tons of medicinal smoke clouded the air in every direction. This is the soberest I’ve ever been for a show in a long time … maybe ever. I was running late because I wasn’t sure I could get in. No time to get liquored up like I normally would. I pined for the green, but no one offered it up. That was fine seeing as I had to drive nearly three hours back home (but I made it in two).

Then Queen’s “We are the Champions” blared over the system and out waltzed Killer Mike and El-P both dressed in all black — Killer Mike sporting an Atlanta Braves baseball cap, El-P in a pair of Ray Bans that he only removed when addressing the crowd between songs. He sipped whiskey from a plastic cup complaining he was sick and then immediately launched into “Talk to Me” off of Run The Jewels 3. The house at Jannus Live was packed and every single body made themselves known when they erupted in cheers. “Legend Has It” and “Call Ticketron” followed suit before Killer Mike took a break to tell the crowd to make sure to smoke all the weed they snuck into the show.

Run The Jewels Live Review Photos

During the pause, a fan presented the duo with a portrait of them. As a thank you, they pulled the fan on stage where he got to watch the rest of the show from the wings. The love was everywhere in the venue, with the band being very complimentary to the crowd, and the crowd just gobbling it up. It was a big, angry, anti-establishment, weed smoking, love fest. Hippies 2.0. No tie dye, just black t-shirts, raised fists, and a love of ganja.

Killer Mike started off the group’s banger “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” which led into “Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry).” The latter is a circular beat hypnotizing the audience into singing along with every single word of that joint. Perhaps it was this display of devotion that led El-P to remove his shades and tell us that we were all “good looking people.” He continued, “Look around. This is your community. So when the world seems to be going to shit, just remember this is your community.” Like modern day Robin Hoods, Run the Jewels empowers the people, especially their fans. The most effective community organizers in the game right now is a hip hop group.

Run The Jewels Live Review Photos

Their message of love, respect, and community continually reiterated through songs like “Stay Gold”. The love of their fan base shone through when they brought another fan on stage. Apparently, she was looking sad in the crowd because her phone was broken. Killer Mike made it all better when he pulled her from the barrier to the stage.

Despite the hard edge of their beats and lyrics, El-P admitted that they “are a group of incredibly sensitive people”. From the message in their music to their crowd work to the way they interact on stage, it is obvious that Killer Mike and El-P consider each other, and their fans, family. One big logical, community-centered family that needs each other to survive, to thrive. Counseling in their song “Don’t Get Captured,” so that we can all continue to keep doing just that.

Run The Jewels Live Review Photos

The group brought Gangsta Boo back on stage to help out on “Love Again.” Her Misfits t-shirt peeking out from under her jacket as she performed with them. At this point the crowd started to get a little rough, anticipating the finale.

RTJ moved through almost their entire catalog. Prior to launching into their encore, El-P warned everyone to secure their valuables. They saved “Kill Your Master” and “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)” that famously featured Zack de la Rocha for the encore. At the first notes of “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)” the crowd broke loose and swarmed into an old skool moshpit, everyone jumping and spinning. I started on the right of the stage and wound up stage left by the entrance by the time it was over. It was exhilarating, until a fight broke out and Killer Mike had to come down from the stage and put the kibosh on it, saying there was too much love here to end the show this way. On a personal note, Killer Mike related that his grandparents used to bring him to St. Petersburg on vacation as a kid. And that he was grateful that St. Pete showed up for him that night.

They thanked the crowd for making RTJ3 the number one album in the country and departed. Their message of not caring “who the president, your mayor, or local council member is. Resist all that. Fuck that shit,” echoing long after they left the stage.

The show was bracing. To hear them support resistance so openly and unashamedly on stage showed an incredibly patriotic attitude. What is more American than a protest after all? I hope to catch them again before the tour ends this summer.

Special shout out to Brian Schank, the photographer for this show, for convincing me to make the two-and-a-half hour drive to St. Petersburg. You were the MVP that night!

Run The Jewels Live Review by Claire Sevigny, edited by Matthew Weller. 

Run The Jewels Live Photos by Brian Schank

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