when you hear the fucking bar // make some noise : Noname at Gretchen

About a third of the way through her Saturday night digs and a hook and six slants into 01.01.19’s “Song 32”, Noname calls for her backing band to whoa whoa wait. A tom-tom hushes a hi-hat, two descending coos dead-end on the top landing of a melody stair, a high string rings a little long and apologizes. A late frost of silence condenses and stiffens in the microwave of the maraschino syruped venue.

I said I’m sick // I didn’t say that y’all sick // what the fuck is up?

The reminder and taunt gets the audience’s flushest rejoinder thus far, a mixture of hoots, snickers and knuckles rapping bottles to stand for busy palms. It’s the first pause for breath in a set that had brisked through seven tracks – several skittering numbers from last year’s Room 25 and a trio of chime and chirp nerve-soothers from the breakthrough Telefone – in just over a quarter of an hour. The breakneck pace might be up to an illness that had nixed part of a trip further north and a resultant urge to get through the work in short order with only part of a throat, or to the shoulder-shimmy giddiness of the sardine-tinned crowd, or to the jitters of the false-start spring.

there are a lot of rhymes in these raps // and not all of them are funny // I’m not perfect

Warner gives some brief instruction on the construction of a positive feedback loop (take briefly the ripening of ethylene fruits, as well as cell-to-cell talk in the body) in the heyday of new york’s boom-bap basements: a clever bar triggers a cheer, which begets a bar, and so on. She picks up on line one of the same song’s verse two, her slick staccato alone but for the murmur and hum of her ad hoc workshopees.

Real recognize real, feelin’ like real proof

She stops abruptly, cheers jump the gun and echo up in the groins of the brick vaults overhead. That’s the point of all this.

that’s what I was afraid of // that’s not a bar, that’s a common phrase // been sayin’ that since the 80s

She hastens into the lesson:

Real buddy-buddy after the trip to the Cancun

Sparse cheers in the pit. ‘Maybe,’ she giggles.

Million-dollar baby, bet you can get to the hands, too

Got a pack of wolves ready to damage a full moon

Encouragement burbles to the surface.

The only bitch (the only bitch) actually rapping, it look like me now

Or – or, meow, kitty just reimagined a freestyle

The fever in the listeners pitches against a pent-up eruption of bass, key, and snare, and she’s one what she wants, a pointy-jointed roil that rolls well forward of the vinyl-sleeve readers pushed against the stage edge and down the aisles of bar and spare amplifiers to the sound booth. Half cajoling, half extolling, she’s convinced a half if not the whole of her crowd to challenge the reflex of experiential acquisitiveness – pay and queue to take and talk of –  trenchant in so much concert-going and exchange it for a practice of give-and-give, where support flows more osmotically over the membrane between the hearer and the heard, where enough concern might dissolve it entirely.

don’t start clapping now, i know you feel the inclination //

hold your hands down //

keep your mouths shut the fuck up //

i’m trying to give you love right now //

don’t tweet about this show, though //

don’t put anything on Twitter

***

Setlist:

Self

Blaxploitation

Diddy Bop

Sunny Duet (curiously w/o the Mind, who had opened the show and performed a lush and off-beat cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Self-Control’)

Reality Check

Prayer Song

Regal

Song 31

Ace

Montego Bae

Amphetamine (Smino)

Window

Don’t Forget About Me

Forever

Part of Me

Bye Bye Baby

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