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March 14, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Newtown Street Fair Afterparty, San Francisco Bathhouse, Sunday 6 March

By the time I saw them on Sunday, Olmecha Supreme and The Barons of Tang were on to their second gig of the day – both played in the Newtown Street Fair earlier in the day, as well as the after party. Not that you would have noticed, there was no hint of tiredness or malaise from either group.

Prior experience tells me that opening act Orchestra of Spheres would have been amazing, but I missed them on this occasion (things to do, people to see). I also missed a chunk of Olmecha Supreme’s set, but they proved in a few songs that they still have the energy and unique stage presence that makes their oddball hip-hop so damn likeable. Imon Starr is a genius of an MC with a lyrical style best described as prophetic, beatboxer King Homeboy can impersonate about five drummers with just his mouth, and Jinetero MC raps almost entirely in Spanish. The great thing about Olmecha is that they fearlessly rearrange most of their songs every time they play – so even though they’re still playing material from several years back it still sounds fresh.

Do you like Mr Bungle? If you do, you’ll probably faint with excitement when you hear The Barons of Tang, who hail from Melbourne (as if we needed more evidence of that city’s coolness). They’re undoubtedly worth making the effort to go and see when they come back to Wellington in a couple of weeks, or if you’re going to WOMAD, try and catch them there. The seven piece includes a bass clarinet, saxophone, accordion and an impressive array of percussion, and they go nuts on stage.

Their self-description ‘gypsy deathcore’ pretty much sums it up: frenzied rhythms with abrupt dynamic changes, comical little horn breaks, metal and punk sensibilities coupled with extremely skilful musicianship and smart songwriting – and so, so well rehearsed. The medium-sized crowd got appropriately crazy and I presume most went home converted. Are music reviewers still allowed to say ‘blew my mind’? Cos I just did.

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