Watsky – Sunday, December 2nd, El Rey Theatre

By Ky Junkins

True hip-hop blessed Chico on a feel-good night Sunday, Dec 2nd. No pat-downs were required for the show aimed at college and high school-aged fans of light-hearted, intellectual rap who identify with themes of being yourself, following a path YOU enjoy, and ignoring the disparaging remarks of critics. Each rapper spoke the consistent message of defending your passions.

First up was Sickbird whose cerebral rhymes were clearly enunciated as he teamed with the duo of Cipher Active. The sound quality was impressive; lyrics remained mostly comprehensible throughout the show, though rap’s omnipresent BOOM dominated thereafter.

Next was TyBox, whose local following was immediately obvious. One might’ve thought a keg was onstage, it was so densely surrounded. TyBox combined political discourse and personal feelings, supported by Hap Hathaway of the Resonators. The Chico DJ dropped a sick verse and legit beatboxing skills.

The surprise of the night was Santa Cruz-based band Eliquate. The five-piece band was rocking funky and hard, and MC Elliot Wright was a whirling dervish on stage. His singing style and thought-provoking rhymes were highly engaging. Wright started a mosh pit and, regretfully, abandoned it rather swiftly. What had to be the friendliest mosh pit I’d ever seen soon dissipated.

Next was A1 out of San Francisco who also had a strong local following. His rhymes were pimpish without being brainless. A1 had an engaging stage presence and good hooks.

Finally around 10:30PM, rather late for a Sunday night, the headliner came out. George Watsky was backed by an awesome four-piece band and special guest Garth Taylor, lead singer of The Rooks. I was amazed by the soulful renditions of Watsky’s choruses as well as the classic cover songs. Watsky was humble, visibly excited about having a fan base, and had the command one would expect of a professional spoken-word poet. He gave 100% effort, freestyling and even cruising the theater’s perimeter while rapping the amusingly profane chorus of “IDGAF”, ending up amidst his admiring throng. Watsky is the real deal with mass appeal, so get on the bandwagon before it’s too full.

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