12/11/2014 – The Middle East – Downstairs

The Middle East may very well have been the funkiest place on Earth last Thursday night. Viva hopped back on their home turf as part of their Winter 2014 Tour down the East Coast, and the fans at The Middle East were happy to have them. Truly a night full of funk, those lucky enough to attend the party witnessed five superb acts, including three Boston-based funk groups: Biscuits & Gravy, Ripe, and Viva La Hop. James Brown would have been proud.

As has become a concert staple for Viva La Hop, their guitarist Dave Kawamura (aka Sub-Q Taneous) warmed up the crowd with a brief electronic solo set, tapping buttons on his colorful beat pad, and saddling his guitar around his shoulder as one of Viva’s emcees—Baylen Hernandez (aka Bo Lyriks)—joined him on stage. The full band—nine other guys—emerged from off-stage soon thereafter.

Hands flew up on song one, “Fantasize,” which is off their debut and only full-length album to date. A fan held high two cardboard cutouts, one of the letters V-I, the other with V-A. Throughout the night members of the crowd chanted V-I-V-A, unsolicited from the band. The crowd knew the lyrics to their song “Work” as if it was already part of a Greatest Hits hip-hop canon.

Unfortunately, Iva Kostic, who is the vocalist on three of Viva La Hop’s songs from their debut album, was not able to be at the concert. However when her parts came up, the band played her melodies. To a first listener, it would have been hard to tell a voice was missing.

But the power of a Viva La Hop concert resides in not only a seamless blending of genres—hip-hop, conga-driven funk, even reggae at times—but in their ability to energize the crowd more than an espresso on an empty stomach. Rappers Bo Lyriks and Philly G traded lines and finished each other’s verses with a tenacity reminiscent of OutKast’s André 3000 and Big Boi; they threw their arms in the air and waved’em like they just didn’t care, their fans following their leaders with Labrador-like loyalty.

Oh, and they have a keytar player, Deshawn Alexander (D-Vibes) who sometimes likes breaking out of tank tops Hulk-style and then launching beastly keyboard melodies into the stratosphere.

After concluding their set the band handed out Viva La Hop stickers on the edge of the stage to outstretched hands.

Get to know the guys in our Viva La Hop interview published this fall.

Cooler than a Polar Bear's Toenails: Viva La Hop
Pros
  • Bo Lyriks has more energy than the Keystone Pipeline
  • Roots-esque beats
  • Rappers have 90’s flow in the best way possible
Cons
  • Solo electronic warm-up set seemed almost too short to pump up crowd
  • Would have liked to hear more covers
9.3V-I-V-A

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