On Thursday September 14th, the teeming masses of Torontonian nerd hop leftovers congregated at The Phoenix to witness what may just be Atmosphere's last stab at staying relevant. The concert was an Atmosphere-ic second wind fueled by the surprising success of his 2005 release, You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having [Rhymesayers].
As I walk through the crowded club, the air reeks of bizarre nostalgia. I feel as though I am walking through a time warp that transports me into the 10th grade and I find myself decked out in a carefully positioned backpack and headphones ready to throw my hand in the air and think to myself how Slug and Aesop Rock are the only people who truly understand me. As Slug takes the stage he begins with an odd question, "do you guys know those days when you just want to have sex?" To which the audience responds "yea, sex rules the school" [or something like that]. Slug switches the mood and says "this isn't one of those days." The crowd seems disappointed so Slug satisfies the audience with "Fuck You Lucy" from his 2002 album God Loves Ugly. As the song gets live y'all and the audience is sweating, possibly the aroma of the room causes an amusingly unusual and exciting nostalgia that overcomes my previous conscious inhibition to join in with the crowd. Within two minutes of the next song, "Tears for the Sheep" I find myself shedding all fronts and letting go of almost all restrictions of my stoic ambivalence, and I find myself getting down with the get down. I get down pretty hard and as I am dancing, throwing my hand in the air like I just don't care and yelling out unwarranted comments like, "yeah boii, I love hip hop, yeyahh" I feel strangely reconnected to a time in my life when I had fun without feeling the vulnerability of losing one's cool. This feeling of complete enjoyment lasts for about an hour…an hour that feels like ten perfect minutes of clean and naughty sex with a pregnant woman. During this ten minute fantasy/one hour reality, I find myself looking around, making familiar glances at strangers- glances that say, "yes my friend, life truly is dope."
So then, one might wonder, was anything wrong with the show? How could this description of a heavenly show full of nostalgia and beautiful sexy preggo fantasies be anything but perfect? I feel the same way…until I return to the show from a 2 minute bathroom break. As I soon realize, 2 minutes at an Atmosphere show is a world of difference. After feeling a sensation of hip hop salvation and the sensation of urinating, I come out of the bathroom, which now acts as another time portal, this time taking me into a warped time zone that I was and never should be a part of. This is the zone of Nickelback-like rock songs that when you hear them, a little part of you dies inside.
Slug opts to drop the DJ and bring out his makeshift band- a band that seems as though it was formed by a 52 year old Dell Computer marketing agent named Stan, who has an enlightened understanding of the youth market. The band looks like a mix between cellphone–commercial-pseudo-hipsters and those black dudes that get a boner from listening to Cuban-funk mashed up with Erykah Badu. The band is quite possibly a formula for success, but does that make it good? The band plus an elderly and plump looking Slug are a group of straight shooters with an agenda to rock your socks. I of course mean that rock your socks means play Nickelback/Ashlee Simpson like rock songs as Slug bounces around stage proving to his audience that he's still with it. How does the crowd respond to this strange turn of events? I can say that from the wall, my vantage point showed two things. One, the crowd that I had felt so connected to, I learned to hate, and two, the only one enjoying the new Slug, was a chubby blonde girl in a t-shirt that read "Drink me Pretty" who was sloshing beer on the ground and, sadly and expectedly, dancing alone. I learned to love this girl. So, I packed my imaginary bag with my headphones, locked them up in a place that I might want to return to some day, and walked out the doors. Maybe tonight wasn't the night to feel completely restored through my memories, but for one hour on a Thursday night in Toronto, it felt good to remember.