A NOTE TO ALL BANDS and individual musicians alike:
It doesn't matter how talented you are in private. The performative aspects of live music can make or break a career and determine whether or not an artist is worth our hard-earned dollars. Good album? So what. If you can't put on a good show, then no one wants to be your friend. Live music is performance art, and it ought to be engaging.
In this regard, Subtle is setting new tiers in terms of quality. So what does it sound like? Having come up from the Anticon Records music collective (13 & God, Themselves), it's a difficult thing to place, the lines of all our boxes blurry. To call it "hiphop" would be inaccurate, unless you were to preface it with something like "abstract" or "experimental," but even that doesn't quite suffice. Frontman Doseone weaves high-speed polyrhythmic rhymes that leave the crowd awash in imagery among the beats, the synth, the drums, the strings, the keys, and the winds. There is too much here to keep track of, and one would expect to see a singing saw just as likely as one might see a turntable.
The music, however, is really just one facet of what makes the show amazing. The band, usually decked out in coordinated costumes of a single color scheme, seethe their sounds amid hand-painted backdrops or projected film or both, Doseone always mobile, pulling and examining objects from some black-and-white-striped skull atop a torso onstage. Between songs, he tosses out bizarre tangents and one-liners that could hold their own against the best absurdist comedy.
But you really know this show is special when you take a look at the audience. Hipsters in girlpants, frat boy rapper connoisseurs, and everyone in between—everybody civil, shoulder to shoulder, having a great time. A room like this is rare, and so is the talent that inspires it. If that's not worth our money, I don't know what is.