So Loki at Seasons Festival 2017 at V.A.L. (Vancouver Art & Leisure)
(Friday, April 14th, 2017)
Words by: Racquel Villagante
Photos by: Taylor Friginette
Vancouver, BC – It was shaping up to be a good Good Friday in East Van, and Main Street’s private underground venue, The V.A.L.–one of the few remaining private arts-centric multipurpose venues in the city–began to fill up with an unexpected assortment of people from a wide demographic range. It was the third night of Blueprint’s Seasons Festival 2017, and the night was stacked with an unbeknownst-to-the-mainstream lineup of Vancouver’s up-and-coming artists: Bains, Prado, and the headliners of the evening, the VICE Noisey-crowned hip hop duo, So Loki. The pair was recently noted by CBC Arts as “the ‘West Coast answer to Drake'”. Everyone in the room seemed to be there to see what this ‘answer’ was all about.
The dark show room boasted two giant cross-shaped televisions (modelled after So Loki’s infamous East Van crosses, formerly established with the pair’s V album on limited edition cross-shaped USB sticks). The crosses displayed static-y, lo-fi visuals alternating colours and images throughout the night, juxtaposed by a giant “O RECS” (for Owake Records) logo rotating on the projection wall behind the DJ booth. HoodJoplin, downtempo female DJ from Edmonton, smoked up whilst on the 1s + 2s, getting the crowd warmed up with her wavy mixes of Missy and other Platinum & Golden era hip hop tracks to set the tone for the rest of the night.
Bains stepped onto centre stage into the bright spotlight. He kicked off his set with his emotionally-charged, rapid-fire raps. The trap beats in the venue erupted from the speakers, and the crowd responded with cheers. A couple audience members huddled around each other in the front row enthusiastically jumping up and down while pointing at Bains and rapping along to his lyrics. The loyal fan support was flat out obvious. Ambiguous black & white images coming from the sound booth facing the stage were projected onto Bains as he uninhibitedly and articulately ripped bars down from what looked like some dark corner of heaven, a distant corner he could catch glimpse of over the rims of his glasses. The most memorable track from his performance included “Fat F***” where Bains rapped along with his fans something along the lines of, “I’m just a fat f*** out here tryin to get my d*** sucked!” “Millenials” was another track of his with memorable lyrics like: “Old dudes talkin’ will mess up your whole day, my generation is not defined by a phone game.” The crowd was definitely feeling it, soaking it all in. Bains displayed enormous skill and passion and was all sweat by the end of his set.
The triple threat of the evening, young music producer, engineer, R&B/hip hop singer-songwriter, Prado was up next. She started out by asking that everyone in the room move up. While some took that as an opportunity to exit the building for a smoke, some followed the leader and circled in. Prado shared songs off her DARK1 EP on Spotify and candidly introduced her songs in full transparency saying things like: “Oh, I love this song! This one is new. I just made this one yesterday.” and “This one’s about someone who keeps you around as an option, like, you’re just convenient for them, so they’re like, yeah you’re ok, I’ll keep you around. Like, no! F*** you!” and “To you girls out there, know you are so valuable. Like, they should be paying you for your time!” In the same vein of stripped-down, real talk, she mentioned the hotness of the venue and took off her distinctive silk pink robe. In glittery eye makeup and Princess Nokia-esque steez, Prado maintained a relatable, down-to-earth sense of humour throughout her set, even despite some technical setbacks. The most noteworthy tracks from her set included: “I Don’t Go To Church No More”, “M”, and “When I’m Down”. Her production and vocals were reminiscent of a crossbreed between Tommy Genesis, Princess Nokia, Lana Del Rey, and Noname. Although relatively new to the music scene, she had a confident and captivating energy about her, and the authenticity that came through in her lyrics and her performance was unique to experience.
The highly-anticipated headliners of the night, So Loki, finally took over the stage. Sam Lucia, the front man of the Vancouver-based duo, came out swinging with an infectious, high-frequency energy. Sam commanded attention on the mic, delivering his bars over massive, bass-booming beats, shirtless with a white bandana tied around his head. CBC recently referred to So Loki as “bombastic” and “avant-garde”, and their performance proved just that with their dynamic stage presence and strong millennial-appeal. Natura, the producer of the pair, showcased his musical skills on keys, and later in the night, on the electric guitar as well. So Loki’s trifecta of catchy production, clever lyrics, and performance skill came through on the undeniable fan-favourites: “Boo Boo” and “Birthday”.
Though the combination of big-bass, trap-beat, East Van-repping, and minimalist branding may appear to industry folks as perfectly catering to a niche psychographic, there was also a definite sense of X-Factor with this cross-branded duo. Some form of burgeoning underground talent had manifest itself, with the honest potential to be taken to the mainstream level of Drake–if of course, the population density of Vancity could reach the scale of the Tdot/The 6. On that note, Sam made several lyrical references to the 604 and its signature venues and figures, and at one point, he even asked the audience: “How many people know how much hate there is for Vancouver?” To which the audience replied in simultaneous screams and boos. He then asked, “Now, how many people know how dope Vancouver really is?” The crowd came back with resounding cheers. The indisputable climax of the set was when Sam broke out the champagne bottle and made it rain champagne all over the audience. The crowd continued to jump up and down and rap along though soaking wet in bubbly. Their hot track “Liquid Luck” was perfectly cued for that exact moment in the set. There was a sense of awe and enjoyment in the room, and one audience member even walked out of the venue loudly stating to his friend next to him: “So Loki is the only relevant hip hop act in all of Vancouver right now.”