"I've found that this show is a magnet for musicians who want something new to happen."
Baltimore-based rapper Height Keech got involved in Rap Round Robin tours and concerts back in 2007 during the boom days of that scene's eccentric game-changing Wham City art collective. His friends inside Wham City had already toured this same format (with the audience in the middle of a performance space encircled by 3-5 groups performing one song each in a clockwise roulette) and it was a success with groups like Future Islands and Dan Deacon.
After eight years, Height has found that Rap Round Robin is a show for musicians "...who can envision the potential benefits of taking a risk and trying something different."
"I'm not sure what to anticipate," said Mister (a.k.a. Bryan Lackner) as he and Blaksmith (Brent Smith) prepare to join this year's tour as Passalacqua. "I prefer it that way. Let it unfold as it will..."
Height was one of the lesser-known acts to join that initial Wham City Round Robin tour. "But, still, I felt like an equal part of the show, not like an opening act. And so I came back wanting to try an all hip-hop round robin. Baltimore's hip-hop scene was still very small then, but I felt like our little corner of it was a hot-bed of interesting, far out and fun music that no one was really taking seriously. I wanted to give all that music it's own space."
Lackner said he appreciates the give-and-take aspect of Round Robins and how it can sharpen an MC's adaptability. "We'll be working with the energy of different performers every night, so each show will carry a unique weight. I'm looking forward to that..."
|Detroit/Michigan dates in April|
Here's how this will go down:
Three touring hip-hop acts, Height, Passalacqua and Eze Jackson, will embark on a two-month tour across the U.S., inviting three local acts based in each community they visit to join them. Three stages will be set up around the perimeter of the room and each act performs one song per "round" before passing it on to the next act in the circle.
And just as Height mentioned, there really is no headliner. You, listener, audience member, participant...are in the middle; non-stop action.
After organizing the first Rap Round Robin, Height saw how this show, with its unique set-up, could "...shatter the alienation one can feel at a local hip-hop show, and create that's moving and visceral."
As the years went on, its popularity grew and the scope of the tours expanded. "I felt like this was our way of building the bridge between Baltimore's various micro-hip-hop scenes and the larger music community," said Height.
By its fifth year, several Baltimore MC's were "...popping out of hte woordwork trying to get booked...feeling they just had to play (it)," recalls Height. Being the ringleader of a big rap extravaganza such as this can burn anyone out, Height included. With the pressure of organizing it and the anxiety over excluding anyone, he stepped back and put Rap Round Robin on hiatus.
But around 2013, friends and fans started suggesting to Height that he try an experiment with his upcoming tour and consider turning each of his dates into Round Robin affairs. "I tried it in Asheville, Pittsburgh and Detroit and I realized how feasible it could be as a touring show."
Height realized what a powerful tool Rap Round Robin could be for MC's to take control of the chaos that is DIY touring. "It felt like we brought a point to something that can feel pointless, and warmth to something that can be cold."
"The indie hip-hop world is half-full of people that are hungry to take things into their own hands," Height said. "And, it's half-full of lazy dudes that just want to get high. So, it's cool to see how the (Round Robin) concept attracts people that have a little moxie and smokes out the people that don't want to rock the boat."
The list of upcoming Rap Round Robin 2015 tour dates are below. Meanwhile, you can sample songs from Eze Jackson here, including last fall's L.I.V.E. N.O.W. ep
Passalacqua are currently finishing up a new album (their fourth full length) with producer Zach Shipps (whose worked with Electric Six and many more). The duo's taking a different approach for this one, writing the songs in the studio right along with Shipps beat production. Look for it later this year.
Height, meanwhile, has a new album called Talk Singer with guitar/piano-based songs that prove to be his most musical and "...least rappish" work todate. Talk Singer, Height says, "deals with rising above the doom and despiare that we, as struggling creative people, all feel inside."
2015 Rap Round Robin dates
B Rich (Ontario dates only)
PT Burnem (Northeast dates only)
3.06 - Baltimore, MD- The Crown
3.07 - Annapolis, MD - Metropolitan Kitchen
3.08 - Richmond, VA - Gallery 5
3.09 - Greenville, NC - Limelight
3.10 - Chapel Hill, NC - Zog's Poolhall
3.11 - Elon, NC - Fat Frogg
3.12 - Charlotte, NC - Milestone
3.13 - Columbia, SC - Conundrum
3.14 - Charleston, SC - Redux Contemporary Art Center
3.15 - Savannah, GA - Graveface Records
3.16 - Orlando, FL - The Space
3.17 - Camp Hill, AL - Sound Lounge
3.18 - Auburn, AL - Balcony Bar
3.21 - Asheville, NC - Odditorium
3.22 - Knoxville, TN - Pilotlight
3.23 - Nashville, TN - Cafe Coco
3.24 - Little Rock, AR - Houser House
3.25 - Houston, TX - Super Happy Fun Land
3.26 - Austin, TX - The Center Spot
3.28 - Los Angeles, CA - Los Globos
3.29 - San Francisco, CA- Milk Bar
3.30 - Portland, OR - Ash Street Saloon
3.31 - Olympia, WA - Deadbeat Records
4.01 - Seattle, WA - Vermillion
4.02 - Olympia, WA - Le Voyeur
4.03 - Missoula, MT - Stage 112
4.04 - Billings, MT - Railyard
4.06 - Denver, CO - Lost Lake
4.07 - Kansas City, KS - FOKL
4.10 - Grand Rapids, MI- Billy's
4.11 - Detroit, MI - PJ's Lager House
4.13 - Cleveland, OH - Pat's In The Flats
4.14 - Youngstown, OH - Knox
4.15 - Pittsburgh, PA - Howler's
4.16 - Buffalo, NY - Gypsy Parlor
4.19 - Kingston, ON - The Mansion +
4.20 - Ottawa, ON - Ritual +
4.21 - Dover, NH - Spun Records *
4.22 - Portland, ME - The Asylum*
4.23 - Providence, RI - AS220 *
4.26 - Manchester, NH- The Shaskeen *
4.27 - New Haven, CT - Crunch House *
4.29 - Brooklyn, NY - The Flat *
4.30 - Trenton, NJ - Champs *
5.01 - Philadelphia, PA - Magic Pictures*
5.02 - Baltimore, MD - Windup Space *
+ w/ B Rich
* w/ PT Burnem
Passalacqua 'THE BAPTISM' featuring SYBLYNG & Hygienic Dress League [Official] from The Right Brothers on Vimeo.
Rap Round Robin 2015