Disco balls, noise makers, P.B.R, and cheesesteaks. If that sounds to you more like the makings of a house party and less like a New Years Eve party, you’re not that far off. For two straight nights, the funkadelic hybrid hip-hop duo Little Stranger kicked off the New Year in a fashion only they could have managed. The Philly born duo returned home to Charleston to host the sold out and appropriately named A Strange New Year: 2 Nights with Little Stranger. The event, held at Charleston’s beloved Pour House, was like a house party on steroids which is absolutely fitting for the two brothers from different mothers, Kevin Shields and John Shields (yes they have the same last name). They may only be in the middle of their nationwide tour, for their first major album Trip Around Saturn. But, the two showed zero signs of slowing down.
The dynamic duo, hand selected some of the best acts their home town of Charleston has to offer. One thing that stood out about their selections, other than all of the insane musical talent, was that they were all close friends and they were all there to have fun. The stacked line up brought out a crowd that packed both the exterior and interior of the Pour House. For two nights and across two stages, there were some absolutely killer acts. Too many to do justice in just one article.
The stand-out acts being hip hop duo Skip’Lo, made up of lyricists Damn Skippy and Apollo Valdez. Fresh off of their debut album Bodega, these two coupled smooth and clever lyrics over old school boom bap beats and absolutely murdered it. Their set amped up the audience and culminated in a rap cypher which showcased some of the best spitters Charleston has to offer, including the headliners themselves.
There was also the synth slinging, guitar shredding, and vintage horror themed act Wolf Mask, led by lead singer and Wolf Mask himself, Ross Bogan. This band has found the perfect recipe of tasty bass, insane drum runs, killer guitar licks, and synth slaying. Wolf Mask is jam packed with talent and truly something that needs to be experienced. I will be on the lookout for their album to drop.
Last, but not least, was the self-titled ethereal-electronica flute sprite, Pip the Pansy. This was my second time seeing Pip and she blew me away yet again. Picture a kick ass fairy tale Princess who carries a flute in a sheath like a sword across her back, but also absolutely dominates a midi keyboard while wearing a bedazzled headset. Always accompanied by her affectionately named Blobs dancing on either side of her, Pip’s sound and personality are incredibly hard not to fall in love with.
Now for the main event. The lights dimmed and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” roared through the speakers. It was perfect. The boys were back in town!
For two straight nights, Little Stranger absolutely brought the party to Charleston and clearly had a blast doing it. The energy from show to show grew exponentially and never once faltered. Equipped with a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, drum machine, and melodica the boys went to work. Kevin worked the stage from side to side laying down lyrics and beats while providing hilarious antics. He nelt and fluttered his eyelashes admiring John while John sang soulfully. At one point being so blown away by his partner’s skills that he fell down with amazement, laying out on stage before springing back into the action and laying down his rhymes. John was right at home sitting next to his keyboard with his guitar across his lap, but when it came time to spit his verses he rose and took control of the stage.
Opening with the song “Hollywood Not”, the group’s addictive song about the state of hip-hop, east vs west coast living, and their love of Gwen Stefani had the crowd singing the lyrics word for word.
The sold out crowd really went insane when they played their party anthem “Brain Fog”. A song that tells the tale of letting your mind wander while on copious amounts of psilocybin, warns against taking bad acid and emphasizes that you can trust them, they know these things.
They didn’t only play songs from their new album – they peppered their old hits and crowd favorites throughout, like the song “Wop Wop” from their album Buddha the Beast, a song reminiscent of the Odelay days of Beck. They also played an epic cover of “Clint Eastwood” by The Gorillaz with their own lyrical spin and Kevin’s melodica skills being put to full use.
The performance of the single “Coffee and a Joint”, turned into a giant singalong with the crowd in full participation. It also featured one of the key moments from both shows. A keyboard performance from Kevin while perched atop John who laid down the rhythm with his acoustic guitar and culminating in an epic melodica solo by Kevin.
Of course the two weren’t the only ones to grace the main stage, sharing it throughout both nights with almost every other artist in the venue including the tour manager Dan who laid down an epic harmonica solo.
With each guest the crowd erupted with more and more energy leading up to midnight on New Years Eve taking the packed venue into the new year. At the stroke of midnight the duo were joined by all the artists in the venue. While John and Pip the Pansy played a musical interlude. Skip’Lo, Wolf Mask, and others showered the audience with confetti. Even Pip’s Blobs got in on the celebration openly taking swigs of tequila straight from the bottle. And just when you thought the crowd couldn’t get more hyped Kevin began to throw cheesesteaks into a roaring crowd that reached out with every fiber of their being trying to score a sandwich. When all the sandwiches had been tossed it was time to keep the party rolling. They continued with a cover of Oh Shit, by the Pharcyde before slowing it down a bit with their track Sunburn. A bittersweet track comparing a bad break up to a sunburn on your backside. A true showcase of John’s vocal talents and Kevin’s lyrical prowess.
They ended the show on a high note, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with their track “Red Rover”. Arguably one of their most energetic songs on their latest album. Prompting the crowd to jump up and down during the chorus, and leading to the two climbing down into the thick crowd where they closed out the show surrounded by screaming fans.