"Oh, it’s totally perverse. " -Hannah Epperson on competition in music. It is with this in mind that I have decided to forgo the traditional "Best Of" list to end the year. Instead I will bring an ongoing series of updates on the most memorable musical experiences of the year, be they concerts, records or even just songs. Today I bring you my year with Pigeon Hole, maybe the best hip-hop I've heard from my homeland of Vancouver Island.
DISCLAIMER: Pictures straight-up jacked from Pigeon Hole's Facebook page.
A few years ago I was at Philip’s Brewery during Rifflandia, (The music-hipster Super Bowl that has become Victoria’s biggest festival) awaiting super-nice guitar champion Tommy Guerrero. Before Guerrero came out and treated us to a set of Burgandy-level class, my brother and I watched the entirety of Pigeon Hole’s set. All we knew going in was that they were affiliated with Sweatshop Union – a good start. We were mystified by what we saw from Marmalade and Dusty Melo. They weren’t necessarily good or bad, but their bravado was through the roof. It didn’t seem to matter if they were good or bad anyway, Pigeon Hole was going to force us to like them, whether we chose to or not.
A couple of years went by and earlier this spring (2013) I was preparing to venture out to my first Shambhala festival experience and I saw their name come up on the list of artists. Knowing such a small number of acts on the list I decided to circle their set, whenever it may be. Also, I needed to research what they’d been up to. Surely, this duo of scruffy ruffians have been up to something during my time away. They had. I found that they had released Chimp Blood, a wildly exciting and interesting new sound. Heavily seeped in trap music (Which I’m fairly certain is just deep hip-hop music. Can someone give me a better definition?), Chimp Blood is a monster of a record and became a gateway for me into another branch of electronic music. Really, an invaluable tool. “Champion” became my beginning-of-the-day anthem, blasting in my headphones each and every morning. “Every day a motherfucking champion…”
The “Year of the Hole” got even deeper when the lineup for this year’s Rifflandia was released and Pigeon Hole’s name once again popped up. When the editor of the yearly Rifflandia festival guide got a hold of me to see who I was interested in covering, I figured why not take advantage of this one? Always one to do my best, just like my mama taught me, I figured they might be game for an interview for the piece. And then, with a simple tweet, I made it happen.
Not but two days later I found myself conducting this interview. It was a brief talk, to be sure, but it was damned fine. Clearly raised on the same stuff I was, from the same part of the world and around the same age, I had found something like kindred spirits. All the hip-hop talk aside, the part of the interview I glommed onto the most was the talk of Shambhala, where I would soon be venturing. Dusty explained his first experience:
It’s a game-changer. It totally changed my life on so many different levels. Musically it was a whole new level of inspiration. And then personally, it just blew my mind. You meet so many good people and everyone’s so nice and happy. It’s just a chance to step out of life for a weekend and kind of re-evaluate yourself as a person. At least for me it was. My personality is day and night to what it was before I went there. It’s amazing. Such a good time. Sonically, it blows every other festival away. We play a lot of other festivals of that kind and it just blows everything, those outdoor kind of festivals, out of the water.
If the excitement wasn’t palpable before our conversation, Dusty Melo had crystallized it for me. Then I got to Shambhala and this happened…
Look at those two motherfuckers. Those are warriors. Scorched by three days of partying in the sun, they brought the effort on an entirely epic level, like Brett Farve on Monday Night Football the night after his dad died. It was a perfect compliment to my large intake of fungus, uncut fun and awesomeness. It was one of the highlights of my Shambhala weekend and a victory for hip-hop, straight up. Holy shit they came a long way from that first sighting at Rifflandia.
Shortly after that set I was dancing away by myself in the Fractal Forest (Everyone else in my crew was resting at the tents, because they don’t have heart) and realized that Dusty Melo was standing right in front of me. We had talked in that interview about how we hoped to run into each other and say “Hi!” at some point and so began my internal struggle. Under normal circumstances I would have just said simply, “Hey, I’m Blake. I talked to you for the Rifflandia article. Respect.” But nothing at Shambhala can be considered “normal,” least of all the mind-state I was in. Overcome by self-awareness (Again, probably because of the fungus) I couldn’t decide what to say. I was worried I’d sound ridiculous or lame. He was with his friends…what if I interrupted their clearly wonderful time!? Oh lord, the struggle! Instead, I did nothing. I just kept dancing. The time had passed. But fear not, dear readers, for this story has a happy (If anti-climactic) ending.
A couple months later at Rifflandia, shortly after their festival-opening set at Club 9one9, I saw Dusty and his cohort Marmalade off to the side and took the opportunity to go over and shake their hands and give them the props they’ve more than earned. They were super happy and more than gracious with my fanboy gushing. It’s always a nice thing to get to meet these people I talk to and hopefully it won’t be the last time I get to ride on the Pigeon Hole bus.
Get Chimp Blood here.