Concert Review: Sporting Life at Fortune Sound Club
On Friday night, I saw Eric Adiele aka Sporting Life in Vancouver at Fortune Sound Club. Sport is the producer for Ratking, an indie hip-hop group from New York City. I first heard of them through their Creative Control-directed video for “Wikispeaks.” Wiki’s gritty raps based in reality, Hak’s melodic flow and Sporting Life’s pitched up samples go well together. In my opinion, they capture the New York City streets in a way that few other acts can. I love the group dynamic and I’m an equally big fan of Sporting Life’s solo work.
In 2015, he released 55 5s on R&S Records. It’s a literal beat tape (300 tapes were pressed) that combines his influences, namely The Diplomats and DJ Rashad’s signature sound at 160 bpm. The album was named after his drum machine, the Roland SP-555. On the record, the stand out track is “Badd.” The video finds drone shots of Eric playing basketball in NYC. He goes through a gauntlet of defenders, beating each guy one on one, before calmly walking off the court.
I had just rushed over to the venue to meet Eric with my friend and photographer, Evan Buggle. You can find him here. I came from my team’s basketball practice so naturally the conversation gravitated towards basketball. I had to ask him if the defenders in the “Badd” video were trying. He said, “Yea, kinda. I was playing a lot of basketball at the time. It was a long shoot so by the end of it they just wanted to finish and get the shot.”
He was a very down to earth guy. He kept blinking when Evan was trying to take his picture. He asked Evan where his accent was from. When Sport was in Ireland, “It was cold and misty, but I met a really cute girl. I only have good things to say about Ireland.”
After Evan took some photos, we headed upstairs. Evy Jane, the opener, was already playing. It was the first time she played in that ‘permutation.’ It was just her and her DJ. She went through a set of smooth and airy vocals over bass heavy beats. She talked about her collaborator Jeremiah who was in the crowd – Friday night was the first show she played without him.
Backstage, Jeremiah asked if Sport had anything new coming out. “I’ve got ideas. I’ve realized with this music thing it’s all about making sure the timing is right.” By the sounds of it, there is new music on the way, he’s just trying to hone in on what exactly it might be. “It’s hard when your influences are always changing.” After hearing his set, I can’t wait to find out what the next release will be.
For the last two songs of Evy’s set, Sporting Life came on and lent a hand. In one hand he had a drumstick that he was banging on a drum pad. With the other, he was fiddling with some type of motion sensor modulator and his laptop. I’m not sure if the songs they played together are collaborations or what but I was digging them.
As soon as Evy was done, almost before she was even able to thank the crowd, Sport got started. You could tell he was in his element. For the next hour, he played a set full of modulated soundscapes – what came out of the speakers was twisted to how he best saw fit. The first song I recognized was a pitched up remix of Styles P’s “Good Times (I Get High)” that samples Freda Payne’s 1977 song of the same name. Her vocals were warped around a frenetic back drop of staccato drums.
This got the crowd head bobbin’ and two steppin’. Evan commented on how much he liked the next track. It was an ambient mix that sounded straight out of a nature documentary. Birds were chirping and the odd ‘Hey!” sample was triggered off his drum pad. The DJ set really showcased the technical skill of the genre-bending producer.
More pitched up samples followed, “steady I’m ready, what’s going on” led in to something that sounded like a based freestyle. This had me dancing with a few others in the crowd. You don’t expect to hear “I used to give a fuck but then I stopped. I used to help a lot of losers then I stopped.” over an eclectic world music mix of strings and horns – Sporting Life made it work. “Stopped” by BeatKing is now a new favourite.
The whole set had the crowd smiling but I don’t think Eric noticed – he was in deep concentration. He may have not have looked up from his equipment the entire set. More turn up raps followed in a language from a distant land. French maybe? I can’t count on two hands how many times I wished I could have Shazamed the current song. “By Chance” by Rae Sremmurd was the first time I was able to use the app.
The vocals kept playing in to “Badd.” It was the first song of his that I recognized. The song was short lived, it wasn’t long before he was on to the next one. I was happy to find a new beer: Caribou Brewing Red Nose Bandit in huge bottles. They were bigger than a tall boy and only $4.50. The birds came back. I looked over at Evan and he approved.
Most of the crowd was watching Sporting Life with the same concentration that he had on the decks. He let Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good day” play out for 10 seconds before getting back to his frantic chopped up version of it. It gave the crowd just enough time to vibe to it before jumping back in to his signature sound. The song carried on this way. One moment it was recognizable then it was back to a contorted version of it.
The later part of the set was peppered with hip hop classics – C.R.E.A.M. was next. He never let the crowd get there footing on one sound. I asked the girl beside me “How did you first hear about Sporting Life?” She said it was through her friend’s boyfriend who had first heard of Ratking. I’m sure that’s standard for Sporting Life fans.
It’s too bad Vancouver didn’t come out in full effect. In my opinion, I’d go to a show like this over a normal DJ set 10 times out of 10. And just like that, it was over. The first silence of the night since before Evy took the stage was met with applause. Eric thanked the crowd and walked back stage.
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