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Themselves 

Sunday, March 8 at Hunter Plaid Gallery.

The Hunter Plaid Gallery was packed. There was a tall woman with a white flat top, short women with short skirts and an innumerable number of average height, nondescript men with mid-length hair, beards and beanies. With a $10 "suggested donation" cover, it paralleled a high-society column of fandom: A veritable Arcata gala, the open gallery was transformed by the enthusiasm of so many bright and smiling faces chatting and moving about in eager anticipation of all that was to occur.

An opening set by the Starving Weirdos was typically weird, followed by Hunter Plaid Collective members thelittlestillnotbigenough's extended set of increasingly difficult to categorize music (avant-hip hop/psych/improv?). DJ Thanksgiving Brown worked a laptop turntable-style in between. The audience's chatter was loud and the music was even louder, but the flow and organization of the evening remained impressive. By 10:30 p.m. Themselves had taken the "stage."

Sandwiched between a back wall stacked with equipment from previous sets and an encroaching semicircle of audience to the front, Doseone and Jel, the Anticon Records rappers coming together as the headlining act, busied themselves setting up beat machines and Kaos pads, the electronics from which their symphony soon emerged.

Pacing aggressively around and into the ring of nervous onlookers, Doseone immediately dominated the sliver of space he was allowed, lightly pushing those he passed in the chest or stopping to ask a question of the audience while looking in one man's eyes. "How many of you listened to our shit in high school?" he cried dramatically, to which the crowd overwhelmingly responded with a chorus of "hell yeah"s and "fucking right"s.

Beyond outbursts of prompted response, the crowd remained totally silent, hanging on every word and moving in a single, massive movement to the beat.

As the show went on, humorous segues became more shrewd. A pointed anti-CD-R spiel followed by a critical Humboldt County comment emitted a round of disappointed boos, which Dose half-heartedly attempted to remediate, "I'm just trying to make things a little more intense for you guys." The conversation turned to the nature of the tour, Arcata being the first stop of a six-month trek that would take them to SXSW, Coachella and everywhere else across the States. Whether or not the Hunter Plaid show was perceived as a practice run was debatable.

Nonetheless, the show was an overwhelming success not only in terms of logistics, but in the groundswell of pride that came from such a dynamic show in an unlikely and intimate space. "Towns are towns and then cool people make them wonderful places," Dose summed up thoughtfully, Jel nodding quietly along. Arcata certainly felt like one of those towns.

Julianna Boggs

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  • Sunday, March 8 at Hunter Plaid Gallery.

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Julianna Boggs

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