Hippie Sabotage know how to work a crowd, but are they bringing anything new to the table?

Hippie SabotagePhotos by Lisette Worster // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Hippie Sabotage with Alex Wiley, Kembe X //
The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco
April 7th, 2016 //

“Who’s ready to get turnt on a Thursday?” was the question of the night at The Regency Ballroom last week.

Even with a crowd that couldn’t bring the venue to 50 percent capacity, the clear answer was, well, everyone. With support from Kembe X and Alex Wiley, Northern California hip-hop duo Hippie Sabotage brought all the energy they could to engage a young, enthusiastic collection of ravers, hipsters and stoners alike.

Leading up to Hippie Sabotage’s performance, Wiley, in particular, put on a surprisingly fantastic set. I would attempt to describe what it looked like, but the entire thing took place in the dark. No lights, whatsoever. Occasionally you could catch a glimpse of the illusive rapper in the light of a camera flash, but it was clear that he would rather stay in the shadows.

Putting on a set filled with smooth flows and heartfelt singing, Wiley demonstrated he wasn’t some no-name rapper here to warm up a crowd. Toward the end of the set, the Illinois-based emcee spent some time spinning a few beats he told us he had been working on while on the road. Rapping over his loose, glitchy, Flying Lotus-inspired beats, Wiley sure did set the bar high for the artists he was opening for.

Depending on your music interests, you could say Wiley was the top talent of the night. Shortly following his 35-minute set, Hippie Sabotage took the stage, armed with several square LED screens and a whole lot of attitude. Composed of two brothers hailing from Sacramento, the roles that make up Hippie Sabotage were quickly established for the audience: Jeff runs the music and Kevin runs the crowd.

Hippie Sabotage

Riding a wave of success born out of Ellie Goulding’s decision to share their remix of Tove Lo’s “Habits” — with enough “STAY HIGH” apparel being sold at the merch booth to make this truth uncomfortably apparent — Hippie Sabotage spent an hour and a half shuffling every 90 seconds between generic, two-step “trap” beats. As Jeff ran through drop after drop on his laptop, Kevin engaged the crowd, telling them when to jump, sharing blunts and even jumping down to the guard rail to take selfies with fans.

Admittedly, this was a remarkably effective technique by the duo, and with each song, from “Your Soul” to “Ridin Solo (Njomza Remix)”, the crowd would jump, dance and cheer, eagerly awaiting the next drop. As the set began to wind down, Kevin invited the crowd to join them onstage as they played their hit remix “Habits” — and the crowd excitedly obliged.

Does Hippie Sabotage bring something new, innovative or unique to their music? After releasing six albums in the last two (TWO!) years, I’d say probably not. Did this show bring anything new to that music? Definitely not. But regardless, as the group’s generic hip-hop beats boomed and its generic visuals looped through the set, I couldn’t help but stand there and be amazed by the level of energy coming from the crowd.

Standing toward the rear of the venue with a sense of pretentiousness hanging over my unimpressed attitude, I asked myself, “If most of the crowd is clearly having fun, is the concert actually bad? What is a concert but an opportunity to hear music you enjoy with people you care about, and dance to that music with those people?” At the very least, the smiles on their faces made it clear that most felt like their money was well-spent.

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