September 8, 2016

Show Me The Body, Sammus Slay at The Chanticleer

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Note: The reviewer arrived too late to see the opening act, What Nerve.

The Chanticleer’s top floor is the perfect setting for shows that bridge the divide between performer and audience. The room has no stage and is too small for there to be much distance between the two, making it feel more like a space of shared experience than a performance with separate performers and viewers. Both Sammus and Show Me the Body made excellent use of the room’s potential; both, although in remarkably different ways, managed to make the audience feel like part of the act.

Sammus, a rapper and Ithaca native who is also a graduate student at Cornell, is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts that can be seen in Ithaca. She performed several new songs along with her standards (“1080p,” “Mighty Morphing”), and her wordplay has only gotten sharper. For those who have only seen stadium rap concerts, where the lyrics are buried beneath towering walls of bass, I urge you: go to a Sammus show. It’s a treat to see a profoundly talented rapper perform and be able to understand out all of her vital, impassioned words.

Sammus treats her show like a therapy session, offering motivation and advice throughout; she encouraged people struggling with depression to seek help, and told the audience that if they have any friends that are trying to “box them in” to unfriend them. This all might sound corny, but Sammus’s empathy feels genuine. During the show’s last song, she cut the music and walked into the middle of the small crowd, finishing it a cappella with the crowd clapping in accompaniment.

Show Me the Body’s short, bruising set was on the other side of the spectrum of catharsis. What had just recently been a space of healing and support became immediately a space of healthy antagonism and ferocity, with the small crowd switching from a support group to a churning moshpit. After bassist Harlan Steed spent a few minutes toying with the distortion on his instrument, sending waves of fuzzy, navel-gripping noise through the audience, leadman Julian Cashwan Pratt pulled out an electric banjo and the band launched into their first song. Pratt possesses an unnerving bug-eyed stare to rival Slim Shady’s, and between verses he flailed every inch of his body, mirroring his frantic audience.

The band’s music is a distinctive combination of different elements: grinding industrial noise, hip-hop inspired drums, and the unsparing funk of the early Red Hot Chili Peppers. The result is both melodic and unimpeachably hardcore; the fact that Pratt plays an electric banjo, an anomaly in hardcore punk, and then distorts it past recognition shows how well the band absorbs different styles into the often-exclusive world of hardcore punk.

Jack Jones is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]