EPIC BEARD MEN SAGE FRANCIS & B. DOLAN
ALSO FEAT. JACKAL TRADES
(live review/album review/retrospective)
Stereo, Glasgow, 23rd August
I first became aware of Sage Francis when he signed to Epitaph records, the world’s leading punk record label is a strange place to find a hip hop artist but he made history by being the first rapper to sign to them. I heard some blistering tracks by him on Punk-O-Rama compilations sitting incongruously among such artists as NOFX, Pennywise and The Descendents, tracks on those comps like ‘Sun VS Moon’ and his trademark tune ‘Makeshift Patriot’ opened my ears to him, as well as his appearance on the Bad Religion song ‘Let Them Eat War’. This inspired me to track down the rest of his music and brought me to albums that would go on to be among my fave hip hop albums of all time; ‘Personal Journals’, and later ‘A Healthy Distrust’ and ‘Human The Death Dance’.
Sage eventually became one of my top five rappers, alongside Immortal Technique, Lyrics Born, Scroobius Pip and Abdominal. As for B. Dolan, the beauty of music is you can assimilate an entire genre inside and out and it’ll still throw up a gem you’ve completely overlooked, classic rock did it to me with Creedence Clearwater Revival and hip hop did it to me with B. Dolan, a diamond of the genre I had somehow overlooked and not heard of until he teamed up with Sage to form Epic Beard Men.
I had heard Sage was playing Glasgow but for reasons of being impecunious I wasn’t gonna make it, but then when Mark offered me a guestie if I reviewed it I couldn’t resist, it was fate, out of my top five fave rappers I’ve only seen two of them live, so Sage would make it three. So with resfeber, and bristling with excitement and a headful of weed, I journeyed from Ibrox along to a familiar cave below Stereo in one of Glasgow’s many back alleys, to take in Epic Beard Men. I wasn’t familiar with EBM’s music yet, or B.Dolan, so I didn’t know what to expect…
It’s always a great feeling to be at a good gig and not knowing what to expect, especially when what it is you didn’t know what to expect turns out to be one of the best hip hop gigs of your life! Did that make sense? Who knows…
One of my top favourite worldwide rappers supported by one of my top favourite local rappers; Mark McG and his brainchild Jackal Trades, a rag tag ensemble of musicians fronted by him and usually supplied by Windebank and Jess on strings and keys respectively, but also featuring many collaborations and an army of notable DJs and producers. I’ve seen Jackal Trades live a few times now, and each time is like a completely different act, whether it’s a full band performing uncomfortable prog/psychedelic soundscapes or whether it’s McG going it solo over some dope beats, or whether it’s a bedraggled Mark on a stool at a festival going-it spoken-word style, it’s never the same scene twice.
Mark was joined that night by Martin (almost completing the Jackal Trades triplet) for a guitar version of a few songs from the ‘Need The Characters’ album including the brilliant ‘Shortcut To Longevity’, an incredible song. And one of my faves, the poignant ‘Bill Hicks Fans’, which never fails to give me goosebumps and reach right down into my soul via my ear canals, Martin’s Floydian guitar is a perfect marriage to Mark’s melancholy monologue on that track. Also appearing with the ragtag hip hop ensemble that night was Rory O’B of Busker Rhymes, for a whole new verse on ‘Celebrity Mourning (Is The New Rock & Roll)’ which is especially good for a fresh slant if you’ve listened to that song 128 times as I have!
Mark played to his audience that night, Sage & Dolan are lyrical rappers and spoken word artists, but Mark is both those things too, and after warming up the crowd with one of his spoken word bits, he plugged us in and offered up ‘The Hills Have No Eyes’, ‘Rabbie Burns Benefits’, ‘Charlie Brooker Sketch’, ‘Triangular Trades’ (I think) and possibly, if my ale-fogged memory serves me, ‘Century of Self’ to fit the mood perfectly, which won over some new fans in the crowd.
Jackal Trades’ ‘Need The Characters’ was officially my album of 2016, I addictively listened to it daily for five or six straight months, and I still take joy in revisiting it every now and then. It contains some of my favourite songs of the last few years, and the lyrics are burned on my brain, find my full approbation for that album here:
and you can purchase the album (name-your-price) here: https://jackaltrades.bandcamp.com/album/need-the-character-s
EPIC BEARD MEN
Epic Beard Men had the place fucking bouncing from the second they set foot on the stage, the stage was a rickety rack, and EBM gathered their things and they quickly attacked, clickety clack, clickety clack. We got exactly what was advertised on the tin… Epicness, and hirsute men, but we got so much more than that too, we got aggression, passion, love and hate, all doled out to a crowd that lapped it up and drenched themselves in Red Stripe as they undulated and prostrated before two master rappers and powerful performers.
Sage and B were not just tight they were ziplocked, they came out swinging, literally swinging, golfclubs, at golfballs, then blowing them up over the crowd’s heads with shotguns, FOUR!! KA-BOOM!! FOUR!! KA-BOOM!! I wondered if this was the long-delayed effects of some unwisely taken psychedelic, but it couldn’t have been, I hadn’t done a psychedelic in weeks, I’m pretty laid back, but there’s no way my body works that slowly! They were definitely shotgunning golfballs above our heads!!
We were treated to everything that night, from psychic-rap-readings onstage with mesmerised members of the audience, to shotgun golf, to a mix of some of Sage and B’s solo stuff, (including a well-received remix of NWA’s ‘Fuck The Police’ [Film The Police] where B had to explain F.T.P didn’t mean ‘Fuck The Pope’ in America as it does in Scotland and he wasn’t down with any sectarian bullshit anyway, whilst also politely referring to it as football rather than soccer) and we were also treated to about half (if not the whole) EBM album ‘Season One’, which Sage informed us himself is available for FREE download here: https://sfrstore.com/news/epicbeardmenseason1/ or you could buy the CD or vinyl ya’ cheapskate, or name-your-own-price on Bandcamp here: https://epicbeardmen.bandcamp.com/ .
EPM hit us with thundering live renditions of selected tracks from ‘Season One’, including their homage to video games ‘Five Hearts’, which is a stroke of genius. ‘Shotgun Golf’ with its dark, dirgy skitzo-electronic beat, “get a nine iron and a golfball and some Buck[fast] and a gauge, ready?” A lot of people might not know ‘shotgun-golf’ is a game invented by godfather of gonzo journalism (our lord and saviour) Hunter S Thompson.
Right now I’m pouring Jim Beam Black Extra Aged into my coffees and listening to the EBM record to jog my memory of the gig, many ciders and Wild Turkeys were consumed that night. I remember them playing ‘Two Different Worlds’, closest thing to a pop song you’re likely to hear from them, although not a pop song really, just a nice rolling ditty imparting sagacious advice not to have children, a view I fully support. I love the line “I like my girls like I like my coffee, with a convoluted background story”.
‘Dumb Ass Kids’ was a highlight of the night as one of my fave songs off an album resplendent with killer tracks. ‘House of Bees’ and ‘2Bad’ were also highlights. Check out the album, it is eclectic, soulful, dark, with genius songwriting, it is hip hop on a whole ‘nother level! A mind-blowing opus!
The crowd was a gallimaufry of different types, from leather-clad rockers to tracksuit-garbed NEDs, from young hot girls to hairy middle-aged dudes, and ‘DIYFMS’ got them all jumping like frogs getting electrocuted in a copper bathtub! A catchy, quality choon, professing the punk DIY ethos, Sage was rapping about putting all the work in himself to do shows, independent in every single sense of the word, booking the venue, flight, hotel and rental car, driving to the gig, setting up merch at the bar, “did soundcheck, promoted, devoted more of my life to this mic than you could ever know kid! Then I headlined, they be like ‘UB40’ I be like ‘red red wine’, where’s my set time, there was a curfew, I served you before the deadline, stepped off stage and then signed a shirt you bought that I helped design…”
And sure enough, Sage and B did man their own t-shirt stall, and jumped down off the stage after the gig to hug fans, sign merch and get photos, before packing themselves into a car that looked like the kind of thing Marilyn Manson or the Transplants would drive in a video and rode off on to their next destination, to galvanise another conglomerate of hip-hop-heads in some other blighted British town. I couldn’t help but think how a rock band at their level would have to lug a lot of equipment around in a couple of vans, but they could just carry a laptop with them and still deliver a show as hair-raising as any rock concert! Genius!
Listening to ‘Season One’ for the second time today, drinking Irish coffees and ruminating, I remember that that pluvial summer night back in August with EBM and Jackal Trades and in the good company of my girl Kayleigh, Jo D’Arc of the Twistettes, Rory O’B, Kemosabe, Mark, Martin and co. was one of the best hip hop gigs I ever went to! And most importantly, I can still remember it! As of the time of writing Epic Beard Men just completed a massive tour of the US and the UK covering at least thirty dates in thirty towns and cities, with more dates TBA! Stay tuned to their happenings here https://www.strangefamousrecords.com/
Two of the best rappers in the world, supported by one of the best rappers in Glasgow + plenty of alcohol and weed = one of the best nights of the year so far! Seeya’ in the pit for the next Epic Beard Men gig!
C.T Herron (NHC Gonzo Div.)