Keith Ape and Bryan Cha$e (The Cohort)
w/ KVKA, Beach Boy, Jay Knight & FAR TOO KIND.
San Fran, Wellington
Friday November 11 2016
I’ll start by admitting a few things. I don’t know the first thing about trap music. I don’t speak Korean. And I hadn’t even heard of Keith Ape before yesterday. But I could tell that this show was going to be a banger, even if it was out of my comfort zone.
I rate Guitar Wolf as one of the best live acts I’ve seen. I don’t understand most of what they’re saying, and I don’t usually listen to that kind of music. But when an artist puts that much energy into a performance, than you can begin to understand how they have managed to build a diehard underground following. I figure Keith Ape must be similar. He manged to sell out this NZ tour, and hasn’t even released an album yet! I guess an album isn’t even required when you’ve already managed to clock up over 30 million views on YouTube…
Arriving at San Fran, the place was already packed. A handful of people throughout the crowd wore surgical masks over their faces – one of Ape’s trademarks. The general vibe was jovial, with people dancing and singing along to the songs that the DJ’s were playing. Things started to ramp up when KVKA took to the stage. He worked hard to hype up the crowd, offering free merch to those who went nuts during sections of his set. It made me think of a recent interview with Emanual Psathas (aka Name UL), in which Psathas was discussing how artists from our local scene should be able to perform just as well as international acts they open for. I think KVKA proved that point well, providing enough energy and talent to claim the stage as his own.
By the time Keith Ape and Bryan Cha$e came on for their set the place was humming. San Fran is my favourite Wellington venue and I’ve seen plenty of sold out shows here, but none quite on this scale. The sea of bodies was pulsating just in front of the stage, as you would expect. People were dancing and jumping and spilling their drinks as they mashed their sweaty bodies against each other. But what was different is that rather being contained to the front, this was also happening further back near the bar.
As well as this, people were also standing on any higher space they could find – atop a shelf along the side of the wall, dancing on the tables at the bar area, one girl was even dancing on the end of the bar itself. I was watching the tables move and sway under the weight of dancing bodies and wondering if they would hold up under the added stress. One goth-looking figure even fell off at one point, but just climbed back up to continue the dancing.
Ape and Cha$e had a good partnership going, tagging off each other as they worked the stage. The crowd was already going before they came on, but their extra input of energy served as a catalyst to set the place ablaze. Many bottles of water were opened and thrown out over the front few rows of the pit just to give people some respite from the heat.
Despite having no album to draw material from, Ape’s set lasted long enough. He’s had his share of hits, as well as collaborating with other big name American rappers like Waka Flocka Flame and A$AP Ferg, so it was clear that many people in the crowd were familiar with his material. One track had been written during the tour in Japan just a week earlier, and was received just as well, but the biggest hit of the night was predictably “It G Ma” – the big YouTube hit that Ape can attribute much of his success to.
I can’t pretend to be an expert on trap music. I can’t pretend that I understood much of what Keith Ape was rapping about. But I can testify that he lifted the roof in Wellington last night. There was a lot of hype around this sold-out show, and Keith Ape more than lived up to it and proved to himself that even a self-confessed “outsider” can be successful on an international stage.