Live Shots: Aesop Rock at the Fillmore

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The anticipation was killing me. After waiting through 10 weeks of postponement and three openers, I just wanted to see Aesop Rock. Well over two hours past showtime on a Sunday night at the Fillmore, the audience was getting restless.

The show, originally scheduled in July, was canceled just hours before, when someone broke into Aesop Rock’s tour van. Now, 10 weeks later, we were tired of waiting. When Aesop Rock finally burst onto the stage with his touring group (and Hail Mary Mallon bandmates) DJ Big Wiz and Rob Sonic, the energy in the room exploded.

Aesop Rock raced through standout tracks such as “Dark Zero Thirty” and “ZZZ Top” from his new album Skelethon, spitting his verse at lightning speeds. His rapid-fire, pop-culture-referencing, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, which have earned him a reputation as one of the smartest MCs in the industry, sparkled under the stage lights.

The increased speed of the live performance allowed the tracks to take on new life, both more playful and more aggressive.

Halfway through the show, Aesop Rock paused before preforming “Racing Stripes,” a song about a bad haircut, to call up an audience member to get sheared on stage by opening band Dark Time Sunsine. The deal is that the scissors start moving when the beat drops and don’t stop until the song is over.

Aesop Rock has performed this stunt at every stop of his tour, but tonight was a special night. Since it was the last show of the tour, they also pulled up their long-haired tour manager to get his cut by “a person who knows a lot about hair....Ms. Kimya Dawson!” Dawson, who will be releasing an album with Aesop Rock later this year, ran onto the stage, afro bouncing. By the end of the song, both men onstage had extremely, uh, creative asymmetrical haircuts and Dawson had even started in on her subject’s chest hair.

After the barbershop was cleaned up, some of Aesop Rock’s older songs started surfacing. This setlist, to the audience’s delight, contained several odes to San Francisco eateries. “Check it out,” he shouted. “Y’all like late-night eating?” The rapper, who lives in the city, devoted an entire song each to late night diner Grubstake and Polk Street’s 24-hour donut shop Bob’s.
“This city has been fucking fantastic to me,” Aesop Rock shouted in one of his rare moments of earnestness. By the end of the packed two-hour set, he had certainly returned the favor.