Live Review: People Under The Stairs

12th May 2015

The gigs in Cardiff that can be called historic are few and far between, the kind of shows that will have people boasting of their attendance afterwards with genuine satisfaction, but if there is one venue that has a history of hosting such events it is the iconic Clwb Ifor Bach. Last Friday saw the venue add another to its list; in partnership with music promotion collective Starving Artists and new Cardiff-based events company Hontza Events. They played host to arguably one of the greatest rap acts of the late 1990s – People Under The Stairs.
The duo, comprised of Double K and Thes One, represent a time in the backlogue of the genre where the emphasis wasn’t on bragging or pointless lyrics, but rather on creating what can only be described as genuinely good music for genuinely good times. Add to that their reputation as being, critically, one of the better groups of our era, and it is understandable why it was a shock to see that they had been booked to play in the Welsh capital.

To say that this was a momentous booking would still be an understatement; it was easy to see that the crowd were in disbelief that they had been given the opportunity to see these legends. Even the band support couldn’t suppress their anticipation, but that didn’t prevent them from giving it what they had. Prior to the main event were three acts: an audio-visual DJ set from Mansfield Green, a set from DJ Veto and, the one to take note of, Afro Cluster. Those unfamiliar with the group, look them up and give them a listen, or better yet, see them live. They are pioneers in that they combine funk and hip-hop in a way that revitalises both without compromising the aspects of either, offering a contemporary sound that is impossible not to dance to.

Playing a set of some forty minutes to what was, unfortunately, not the biggest crowd Clwb has ever seen, they set the tempo with their upbeat music and the majority of the crowd were swaying along with their rhythmic sounds. Having first seen them perform at a decidedly better than average flat party, Afro Cluster have gone on to develop a cult following in the city they hail from. They are much loved by those who have seen them perform, recently having played at the acclaimed Troyfest, a small music festival in Hay-on-Wye that deserves more recognition than it gets.

Opening with their lesser known material, People Under The Stairs immediately underlined just why they are so highly regarded – Double K was on the decks using genuine vinyl, which may sound pretentious, but as something that rarely happens these days; it was a sign of their authenticity, if nothing else. When the two launched into one of their classics, ‘Trippin’ at the Disco’, a highly anticipated moment, the crowd’s response seemed to surprise the two LA-natives. That such a small crowd in a city that they had only played once before (apparently they played the Union Hall back in 2002) could produce such a reaction appeared to take the pair aback – Thes One earned himself no end of favours in stating his appreciation for the love that they were shown, something that a few groups could take note of.

Continuing through the set, dropping anthems like ‘Mid-City Fiesta’ and ‘Acid Raindrops’, it was genuinely satisfying to see that the duo were getting such energy from the crowd. Closing the set was the one song I think most of the crowd had been waiting for, ‘San Francisco Knights’.  If ever there was a moment to meet the aforementioned historical criteria it was the performance of that song. Prompted by Double K, the lights were turned off and everyone’s lighters were put up while that guitar riff started playing before it exploded and everyone bounced in rhythm to what is, in my mind, one of the great instrumental tracks in hip-hop. As gigs go, this was most definitely up there.

Sion Ford

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