Here’s what happened when Busdriver performed at Sled Island 2017
Calgary, AB – From June 21 – 25 the annual Sled Island music festival took over the city of Calgary for a week filled with music performances, headlining shows, art exhibits, movies, and more.
One of the most highly anticipated shows of the week for the hip-hop heads, DJ Quik headlined at the Palace Theatre on Jun. 23. The bill for the night was stacked with additional performances from Montreal artist Wasiu and underground LA rapper-producer Busdriver.
Busdriver is one of the most highly respected names amongst the heads, due to his monstrous lyrical abilities and heavily psychological approach to music.
Photo by Sarah Jay
As a rapper, he’s one of those guys who manages to turn 16 bars into… like… 64 bars by adding all of these layers and interpretations and things to read in to. Plus, his technical abilities are disgusting. He’s got a distinct nasal flow, a tight and speedy delivery, and a reputation for insane live freestyles.
Busdriver has (low-key) been a torchbearer for underground conscious rap for a while. Even though I’m almost certain he’s that guy who hates being labelled with sub-genre-specific descriptors like “conscious rapper”. He has always had one of the most honest and essential social justice commentaries; breaching issues like racism and classism. And more recently, he took a step back from rapping to focus more on the production side of things.
But his production is really just another extension of his artistry. In case you’re not familiar, he has this song called “Imaginary Places”, and it opens with this one line: “I’m just here to hold your hand when you die/ And to show you around imaginary places.” It’s a lead-in to the imagined spaces and places in your mind, and the worlds you enter in your subconscious. And I feel like that is Busdriver’s signature production style … making these sonic “Imaginary Places.”
For his set at the Palace Theatre, Busdriver took a lower key approach, positioning himself at centre stage with two stand-up microphones and a Roland SP-404SX sampler. Busdriver doesn’t just perform his tracks, he reinvents them live for his set with the addition of ad-libs, yelps and moans, and – of course – the sampler.
As a live performer, he’s frantic and spastic, using his hands and facial expressions to emphasize his music. Apparently it’s all habitual, and not something he intentionally set out to do. But it adds a very visual, physically embodied component to the experience.
At a beat drop, his eyes will bug out of their sockets. As his rhythms build, he twists and twitches his free hand in-time with the beat. His motions and mannerisms are somewhere between those of a mad scientist, and an orchestral conductor. It’s an unexpected kind of crazy, visionary, psychological, and absurd. Which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Busdriver.
Photography by Sarah Jay
Twitter: @busdriverr | @sledisland