I’m not usually one to attend live music events, but I enjoy the ones I do go to (with the exception of a Barney concert I was forced to endure in order to avoid a temporary hatred from my nephew.) I have a friend who’s a band manager and occasionally drags me out to smaller shows, showcasing bands looking to become up and coming, usually, they are more stagnantly still and steady, but provide an adequate backdrop for my drinking. A friend of mine is an aspiring rapper and I was recently told he was performing a show at Toronto’s renown Comfort Zone. Although I usually can’t encourage adults stringing together poor poetry to a beat, I listened to some of Adam’s songs and was more than impressed. Himself and his partner, who make up the duo The First Class under the brand First Class Affiliates, have a number of smooth songs that I found myself going back to while lip-syncing into my mirror in the least intimidating gangster mimic you could ever see.
After listening to their playlist on Soundcloud a few times, I fired Adam a message to ask if he’d be interested in me catching a show and writing an article about the performance. He was thrilled and said yes, so I wrote down the date of the show with the intention of attending.
The last rap concert I went to was Eminem and Limp Bizkit in grade 9. The Family Values tour supplied me my first high and a reason to question my Mom and Dad’s parenting decisions. I wanted to dress the part for Adam and Shawns show so searched through my closet for any remnants of that hazy night. My old Fubu hat, a bandana or some sort of army patterned gear would suffice. I was left compromising on skinny jeans, a Raptors hat and baggyish black t-shirt that I told myself I wore because the loose fit matched the hip-hop clothing style but deep down knew I wore to hide the bloating I was feeling after 8 beers.
My buddy Rich and I walked into the venue at about 10:00pm to a decent sized crowd and a solid energy. The crowd was more versatile than I expected, with styles ranging from hipster to gangster and containing nearly everything in between. I saw Adam and Shawn near the back of the room looking loose and popular. It appeared they were at a high-school reunion or family picnic. They met everyone with an air of familiarity, exchanging elaborate handshakes and half hugs. I became nervous that my own handshake greeting would bait me out as a poser. I also became nervous that my t-shirt wasn’t covering my bulge as adequately as I wanted. Luckily there were no really embarrassing hiccups in our handshake and Adam thanked me for coming, introduced me to his fly, stoic looking partner and brought Rich and I up to the bar to hook us up with some free drinks. He was off to a good review from me.
Adam and his partner, stage named Shawn Smoothe, took the stage at about 11:30 to a crowd of around 100 fans. The two started off the show by engaging the eclectic audience and drawing them away from walls and bars towards the centre of the room. From our perspective, at the back of the room, it was obvious how quickly the audience was won over, moving from flat footed and scratching their pockets to calve and roof raises. It was obvious the two have performed together numerous times by their cohesion and effortless playing off each other. Like Adam and I’s handshake, the show was to be noticed. They used every inch of the stage and looked more comfortable performing a rap show than I was just standing at one, and mid-way through I was loose as a goose off the juice.
The only negative thing I have to say about the show is that it seemed short at only 3 songs. I asked the two after the performance why, despite having a pretty large song catalogue, they played so few. Adam responded that the bands objective was to present an image similar to their name-First Class. Fewer songs left them the ability to put all their effort into the ones they did play and leave everything on the stage. He said that the philosophy even spreads into the making of their music. The two focus on making one track until it’s the best they think it can be, release it, regroup and then start on the next song.
Rich and I congratulated the duo, thanked them for the show and drinks and paid them the largest compliment an artist can be given; we asked where we could purchase their music…for money.
You can see more of the guys, including future show dates at www.firstclassaffiliates.ca or on instagram at @firstclassaffiliates @iamasce and @shawnsmoothe