Fill in the Blanks tour hurls more than rhymes

Mike Spoo


Featuring local hip-hop headliners Atmosphere, the Fill In The Blanks tour rolled into town Saturday and brought with it plenty of bang for the buck. The six-and-a-half-hour show at First Avenue included a documentary, a stripping emcee and a vomiting DJ. Oh yeah, there was some good music, as well.

The showcased opened with a screening of Elements of Style, a 90-minute documentary on the Minneapolis hip-hop scene. The movie was packed with footage of many of the groups performing, priming the First Ave. audience for an amazing show.

Following Elements of Style, Rhyme Sayers member Brother Ali played an energy-packed set full of battle raps to get the crowd hyped-up. Next up was Rhode Island-native and showmanship-master Sage Francis, who put on one of the best sets of the night. Sage bounced around the stage for over an hour, spouting songs that covered nearly every topic imaginable. The highlight was his emotional criticism of Sept. 11 media coverage, “Makeshift Patriot.” His performance ended with the slightly husky rapper stripping down to his undersized underwear for his final song.

Fresh off the release their debut album, First Born, local heroes Eyedea and Abilities took stage backed by Oddjob’s Crescent Moon. Together they cruised through an hour-long set that sparked a rare hip-hop mosh pit in the front of the stage. The routine went back and forth between full song, and Abilities’s DJ scratch routines, before culminated with all three of them diving into the crowd.

Then, with Atmosphere, came a new ambience. Switching gears from the other group’s party sets, Atmosphere focused on a more intense, intimate performance, with rapper Slug asking to look everybody in the eye. They focused on their popular songs including “Abusing of the Rib,” “God’s Bathroom Floor,” “Woman With the Tattooed Hands,” and “Scapegoat,” but added a couple of new songs. Cincinatti’s Mr. Dibbs, who was DJ-ing for Atmosphere, added his trademark, scratching over heavy metal to the show. Atmosphere also played a full hour-long set, followed by a three-song encore with the rest of the Fill in the Blanks tour members on stage. Atmosphere ended the set with an homage to Prince, a new song done over the instrumental to “Darling Nikki.” Slug even performed part of the song with one spotlight, while leaning on the speaker, Purple Rain-style.

What was going to be a freestyle session to end the show turned into a messy ending, literally. With much crowd encouragement, Sage Francis freestyled while lying on his back and Dibbs proceeded to force himself to throw up on Sage’s stomach. Slug summed it up, saying to the crowd, “This is some seriously fucked-up shit.” That it was, but it was also one of the best local concerts of the year.