Injury Reserve, an experimental hip-hop group based out of Arizona, played a phenomenal show, complete with bangers, emotional moments, and a pesky fire alarm halfway through their set, for their By the Time I Get to Phoenix album tour at the Neumos in Seattle on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. Slauson Malone opened for Injury Reserve, who played a fucking weird and breathtakingly beautiful set.
I arrived at the venue only 30-minutes before doors opened and was surprised to see only about five people were waiting in line. I was startled because I figured that it was going to be a completely sold-out show. But I didn’t care--I just wanted to get to the front of the venue. I stood awhile, chopping it up with some fools, and about 15 minutes before the doors opened everyone arrived. In fact, there was so much confusion that people ended up making two separate lines divided by entrance to the venue in the middle.
Eventually, the Neumos Staff came out to announce that doors were opening and they sent everyone from the second line to the back of the first line. There were 30-40 people in the second line that got sent to the back. As they passed, mobilizing towards the back of the line, I could see their begrudging faces pass me by one by one as I stood tall at the front of the line.
I’d never been to the Neumos before this show--it’s a fucking awesome venue. There is a floor area where concertgoers could mosh right up to the stage. You're so close to the stage that, if you really wanted to, you could jump on stage or grab the performer’s legs, dragging them off stage and into the crowd. Additionally, there’s an upstairs, 21+ view deck where people can grab decent drinks from the bar and sit down.
As soon as I entered the venue I ran over to the merch booth. The tour merch was pretty sick, but I’m too broke to buy that so, I just copped the last By the Time I Get to Phoenix cassette that they had on sale. After purchasing my tape, I walked right up to the front and awaited Slauson Malone’s arrival.
Slauson Malone came on the stage with this cellist named Zerch who actually looked remarkably like Stanley Kubric.
Malone stripped off his shoes and proceeded to put on high heels as Zerch proceeded to take off his shoes and socks, full stop. They played such a wacky, awe-inspiring set: Malone brought the hype, glam energy while the cellist brought a lot of emotion and concentration to the stage. It was awesome to see this rap, R&B, and classical music amalgamation, especially live.
Both Malone and Zerch separately jumped into the crowd and moshed with us, wearing their respective footwear (or lack thereof).
Slauson Malone is definitely a must-see artist, his set was just so unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and it was amazing. The only issue with the set was a few times there was quite a bit of mic feedback and Malone would look up at the sound guy with a disappointed look. The sound guy managed to fix the issues pretty quickly (within a minute or two each time) but the sound issues kept recurring throughout Malone’s set. Obviously, this was an issue with the venue rather than a critique of Malone’s performance.
After Malone finished his set and I downed a cider on tap, Injury Reserve came on stage, in all their glory.
They started by running through a handful of emotional tracks off of By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Ritchie with a T absolutely kills it live, he sounds even better than he does rapping on the record because you can experience his vehemence firsthand. Corey Parker was also so sick live: he was using Ableton Live and actively manipulating Injury Reserve songs with effects, patterns, and VSTs--Parker ascended the traditional expectations of what most producers and DJs do on stage. It was such a dope sight to see live--just by looking at Parker doing shit on the computer and bobbing his head, you could tell he was just vibing with the music and enjoying performing. The entire performance was also accompanied by a remarkable light show and a powerful smoke machine.
There were a few minor sound issues towards the beginning of Injury Reserve’s performance. At one point Ritchie with a T actually called out the sound guy by saying something like, ‘Kevin c’mon, get your shit together.’
Towards the middle of their set Injury Reserve played “Smoke Don’t Clear”, complete with blinding fog and rapidly blinking lights. Right at the end of the song, when they began performing probably their most emotional song in their discography, “Bye Storm”, the fire alarm started going off under the beat. At first, I thought it was another soundboard glitch, but Ritchie with a T said something like, ‘Stop the music... They told me this wouldn’t fucking happen. We’ll need to evacuate and then we’ll finish our full set.’
So, the Neumos was evacuated to allow the Fire Department to clear the theatre. About 10/15 minutes after everyone evacuated the Fire Department arrived and huge, powerful fans at the entrance of the venue to clear out the smoke while they made sure there wasn’t a fire anywhere in the building. This was probably a 30-minute process but it wasn’t all bad, it just kind of felt like an intermission. Interestingly, the fans also kind of sounded like Injury Reserve, they were so distorted and wavy, it was almost like the show didn’t stop. The intensity of the night certainly didn’t.
After we got back inside Injury Reserve played “Bye Storm” to cap off By the Time I Get to Phoenix and completed their set with a handful of their older hits. The fire alarm almost separated Injury Reserve’s most recent album and their older projects perfectly. It was like transitioning from an emotional wasteland to a hype rap show, with “Bye Storm” right in the middle.