Mass K-OS at frosh concert

K-OS proves to the frosh that “hip-hop’s not dead—it’s all in the emcee” at the annual frosh concert last Friday.
K-OS proves to the frosh that “hip-hop’s not dead—it’s all in the emcee” at the annual frosh concert last Friday.
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Concert Review: Frosh Concert 2005

While K-OS may earn his moniker by his erratic and versatile stylings on the mic, the atmosphere at Friday’s annual frosh concert was surprisingly tame. Sure, there were a few crowd surfers who coasted quickly into the arms of the yellow-garbed Stu Cons. Sure, there was some pushing, shoving, and the occasional waft of marijuana. But by the time the Whitby-based M.C. took the stage, most crowd members were able to stand back and happily soak up the beats and melodies emanating from the speakers.

Being the third act of the night probably made a difference in the vibe of K-OS’ set. The evening kicked off at around 8:30 p.m. with Montreal-based The Stills opening the four-hour show. Their set hovered somewhere in between 30 and 40 minutes, and while it was uncertain whether the crowd energy stemmed from the band or the giddiness of Frosh Week, it seemed irrelevant. But as The Stills gyrated and wielded their guitars into a conclusion, the crowd began to swell. A line snaked in front of the gates and towards Union St., eager to get inside and catch K-OS and second-billed Pilate.

Not surprisingly, Pilate took the stage after several rousing choruses of the “Oil Thigh.” As with every Frosh concert, the crowd was still buzzing off that peculiar cocktail of several days of having that “legendary Queen’s spirit” drilled into them and the giddy excitement of beginning university. In fact, the Frosh were so excited that they commenced crowd surfing during the set change. AMS VP-turned StuCon Brian Cheney chuckled as the Stu Cons scooped up the crowd surfers and escorted them back to the rest of the audience members.

“Who crowd-surfs in a skirt?” Cheney asked one of his fellow StuCons. Good question.

The lights dimmed as Pilate opened their set with a slow and steadily-building melody, with singer Todd Clark’s falsetto soaring over the crowd and lulling them into submission. During “Melt into the Walls,” Clark picked up his guitar and shut his eyes tightly, rocking out to the song’s lilting bridge. Holding his arms high above his head like a rock pop-Jesus presiding over the faithful, Clark harmonized with bassist Ruby Bumrah in many of the songs on the set list. Highlights included “Overrated” and the radio single “Into Your Hideout,” the latter’s driving beat providing a perfect intro into their best-known song.

“Maybe fifteen of you know the words [to this one],” joked Clark, but most crowd members seemed keen on just swaying and pogo-ing to the music. Clark didn’t seem terribly upset, though.

“You may have had a lot to drink,” he conjectured, “but that’s cool. [In fact], I hope you had a lot to drink!”

While Pilate may have relied on its driving beats to move the crowd, K-OS pulled out all the stops. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of his music, ignoring his astounding versatility and the infectious nature of K-OS’ songwriting is virtually impossible. Cool jazz, funk, classic hip-hop, reggae-infused beats and the occasional injection of rock elements all combined to round out K-OS’ set. Building anticipation with a lengthy and trippy intro before visibly assuming the stage, he ensured that the audience members were chomping at the bit for a taste of the enigmatic M.C.

“Is Queen’s University in the house?” K-OS bellowed from beneath his signature hood and sunglasses. As the crowd seethed and pressed itself against the metal gates, the StuCons formed a wall of yellow windbreakers between the stage and the audience members. K-OS remained unfazed, however, and assumed his “B-Boy Stance.” The guitarist’s maddening and intricate picking was spellbinding as the presence of the two percussionists laid down beat after beat. To the delight of the audience, K-OS improvised and worked in mentions of Queen’s, Pilate, and The Stills into the set. The Latin-laced melodies of “Commandante” were a highlight, taking full advantage of the guitarist’s virtuoso.

“Spotlight on the guitarist!” commanded K-OS—and so it was.

K-OS displayed astounding versatility as he switched effortlessly between resonant R&B vocals and rapid-fire delivery of his hip-hop. In “Emcee Murdah,” K-OS condemned “bling rap” and explained to the crowd “Hip-hop’s not dead—it’s all in the emcee.” Older song “Heaven Only Knows” was nice to hear, bringing back memories of K-OS’ Clark Hall Pub show back in the fall of 2002.

Much to the crowd’s delight, K-OS dove into the audience and surfed a bit himself before returning to the stage for “Crabbuckit.” A rousing rendition of this hit single buoyed the crowd’s fervour, despite the gradual decrease in numbers as the set wore on.

“Man I Used to Be” was “dedicated wholeheartedly to Michael Jackson,” whose recent fall upon rough times added poignancy to the catchy pop beat.

“You know what I did in university?” K-OS asked the crowd. “I smoked a lot of weed!” After concluding the set with “Have a good school year—fuck it up!” he chose to return for a single encore.

“Everybody left!” K-OS complained, and as I glanced behind me, the crowd had admittedly gotten sparse. It was after midnight by now, and four hours had apparently gotten the best of the frosh, run ragged by the frosh week activities.

No matter. It was still a pretty good—albeit lengthy—show.

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