Atmosphere prepares for first-ever winter show at Red Rocks

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:: Icelantic Winter on the Rocks ::

:: Atmosphere ::
:: Common ::
:: Grieves + Budo ::
:: Get Cryphy ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: January 27 ::

By Hap Fry

In anticipation of what is rapidly approaching later this month, one might have expected the members of Minneapolis-based hip-hop band Atmosphere to have spent the holiday season reenacting a scene out of Rocky, running around their cold city in grey sweatsuits, training to the song “Eye of the Tiger.”

“That’s really not too far off,” said Atmosphere MC Sean Daley, who goes by the stage name Slug, during a recent phone interview with The Marquee from his Minneapolis residence. “The heater broke in my practice space, so we’ve been playing heatless for the past few weeks. But now, you’ve got me a little paranoid. Maybe we need to jog around the lake some in January,” he said.

Laps around the lake may very well be in order considering the feat that Slug and Atmosphere’s other lead half — DJ/producer Anthony “Ant” Davis — will attempt to pull off within the month. Atmosphere is set to play Red Rocks Amphitheatre on January 27.

Let’s allow that to better sink in: Atmosphere will play Red Rocks later this month in the first-ever winter concert at the famed Morrison venue.

“It seemed like a joke at first because, obviously, it’s winter,” Slug said. “Then, we quickly learned they weren’t joking. This was curated by some people in Colorado. They called and asked. It’s not like I had this bright idea to throw together a show at Red Rocks in January. If there is any shock value involved, I’m unaware. The joke would be on me because I’m probably more excited than anyone who will buy a ticket.”

The full bill of the Icelantic Winter on the Rocks, which is being held in conjunction with the SIA SnowShow (SnowSports Industries of America’s trade show), also features Common, Colorado native Grieves and his sidekick, Budo, and Get Cryphy.

Weather-Warehouse.com reported that last year’s January low in the Denver area was -3, while the high was 71. The mean was 31.4, which is on par with Slug’s forecast for the event. Credit the event’s headliner for having unwavering optimism, if nothing else. “I don’t think it’s going to be sub-zero,” Slug said. “I think it’s going to be beautiful. I think it’s going to be surprisingly gorgeous. I think it’s going to be about 35. That’s my prediction.”

Since forming in 1989, Atmosphere has taken on plenty of other head-scratching endeavors, but with this show, Slug knows Atmosphere is about to enter a whole other stratosphere.

“The idea of doing something that hasn’t been done before is always kind of interesting,” Slug said. “That’s not a good enough reason because there’s plenty of things that haven’t been done before that I’m not jumping up to do. But I’m familiar with the venue and the scene in Colorado. All of those things together, it was too compelling to turn down.”

From a musical perspective, Atmosphere has figured out over the years that it’s okay to spin a different message. The group’s latest album The Family Sign features plenty of intense lyrics and tackles serious subjects as evidenced by the tracks “The Last to Say” about domestic violence, and “She’s Enough” about monogamy and moving on from co-dependency.

“It always makes me excited when I can connect the record to my world,” said Slug, who recently married and had his second child. “Those two years surrounding that record, everything felt like it had a purpose. It wasn’t that long ago that I was just wasted with my head in the clouds, chasing whiskey and women. To be able to come out of the clouds with my body and brain intact and have the focus that I have is a blessing I can’t take for granted,” he said.

The refreshingly honest artist also does not take his roots for granted. According to Slug, Los Angeles and New York are not the only two cities with an ear for good hip-hop. “People view those places as hotbeds for hip-hop, but what people don’t realize is that Minneapolis is amazing for hip-hop,” Slug said. “You know, we don’t have anyone here as famous as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Ice Cube or Snoop Dogg, but pound for pound, I’m willing to bet — just on a per capita level — that we have more rappers here who don’t have to have day jobs than any other city in the U.S. I don’t think there are actually many cities that can compete with Minneapolis,” he boasted.

That creative base has ultimately helped to not only support the band, but mold and forge its music. Atmosphere has been employing the full  band setup for a few years now, but this element — which sees Nate Collins on guitar and Erick Anderson on keyboards — has been pushed even more with the 2011 release of The Family Sign. “We change it up and do things different with every album,” said Slug. “With The Family Sign album, [the writing]was 100% collaborative.”

The Family Sign, released on Rhymesayers Entertainment (the independent hip-hop label based in Minneapolis, co-founded by Slug  and Ant), shows a looser music styling — textured with swaggering guitar riffs and expansive keyboards — than on past Atmosphere albums, and lyrical content that has Slug, known for giving as little of a fuck as possible, taking a new approach to his life and his rhymes — an approach that doesn’t leave much room for not giving a fuck. Ant also took a minimalistic approach to the beats on the new album, creating an almost uncomfortable intimacy between the listener and Slug’s nearly Kierkegaardian approach to self-analysis and self-questioning. The track “Millennium Dodo” starts out with a couplet where Slug states, “I only act like an asshole/ Why don’t ch’y’all stand back, let the man grow.” And it’s with this lack of his usual sardonic edge that Slug explores themes of growing up, not as a young male, but rather as a family man and father (hence the album’s title).

Slug will show his appreciation to his home state in February when the group will play six different Minnesota towns in seven days. But for now, Slug is just trying to make it through the holiday season while getting ready to play one of the more unique gigs in Colorado history.

“We’ll see what happens,” Slug said. “I’m not afraid to try new stuff, especially when it sounds like a good time. Hopefully it goes off pretty well and becomes a trend.”

 

:: Icelantic Winter on the Rocks ::
:: Atmosphere ::
:: Common ::
:: Grieves + Budo ::
:: Get Cryphy ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: January 27 ::

 

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