And so it came to be on the day he had laptops talking about his 35-minute “Runaway,” Kanye West became the talk, at least over text and Twitter, of an industry festival otherwise reserved for, well, who even knows anymore. That an artist as big as Kanye’s “CMJ” play was vicariously affiliated with Pitchfork’s own competing “festival” was vaguely poetic, though this was less about industry or Pitchfork or CMJ and more about his relationship with A-Trak, and more still about offering an apparently small-scale expression of street-level connection for the benefit of an inevitably larger internet audience — much like the Twitter account used to promote the material he performed during this five-song set.
So why not, at 2AM on Saturday night, on night last of a week of shows, at a time by which CMJ had gone soreMJ, have Kanye West send one more round of talking points into the waning week. The last thing I wanted to do was stand in one place waiting two hours for yet another show, but I also happen to love seeing iconic stars perform in bowling alleys, so. This happened in the closing hours of Pitchfork.com’s three-day #Offline festival at Brooklyn Bowl, during the segment of the weekend handed over to A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold records, for their own mini-showcase including various artists from their roster and leading into Kanye’s “So Appalled” collaborator CyHi Da Prynce. That set indeed wound up with the opening “ridiculous”ness of “So Appalled,” and at the appropriate moment Kanye jumped out dressed wearing black with an oversized Horus chain with links as big as fists and an unwavering smile effortlessly held in place for the five G.O.O.D. Fridays tracks making up his setlist.
On a stage that small in a room that packed, his presence and effect taken in first hand was confirmation of the outsized charisma that comes with being one of the world’s biggest pop stars, or at least being a person in possession of one of the world’s largest reservoirs of self-belief. On a night just weeks after songs like “Runaway” first made their way out to the world via Twitter, finding yourself mouthing every word to every song, it’s confirmation that these songs are pretty great. My legs were throbbing from a week of show-hopping, but to answer all friends’ questions at one go: Yes it was worth it. Kanye was quick, and for the moment, incredible.
After that out came the great GZA, with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Liquid Swords,” to a room still delirious from Kanye’s quick hit and not entirely able to appreciate how lucky it still was to be standing in front of a Genius of another sort. Our photographer Graeme took some shots of Kanye, I stuck around long enough to stick my iPhone in GZA’s face for those shots. Hear the shrieks that met Ye’s appearance with this clip of “So Appalled,” and most of the rest of the set, including GZA doing “Liquid Swords” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” with these FanTube vids below.
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
Vids via P4K.