The Acme Siren

What I Learned at the Steinski Show

November 6, 2007

In a chance occurrence, I was looking through the Minneapolis paper last week (those of you who know me will note that I prefer the St Paul paper on a account that they run Zippy The Pinhead) and what did I happen to see? An arts listing hyping the Festival of Appropriation, which was being held at the Soap Factory. And Steinski was listed as playing a live set! Steinski is one of the early pioneers of hip-hop sampling and mash-up technique. He paved the way for DJs such as DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, and Danger Mouse. His music was never very easy to come by. While he did release a few albums, his iconic "Lessons", numbered 1-3, are tougher to come by because of their generous sampling of copyrighted material. With the rise of the internet his music, along with other sample based music, has become more readily available. (psst. you can download Lessons 1-3 from this website. don't tell Canada)

While I think the show would have been better had it been in a real music club rather than in an art gallery, it was still fun to see the actual Steinski. I felt a bit like I was going to see Harley Ear, the man who first put tailfins on cars. While undoubtedly influential, I knew next to nothing about this man who has spent much of his life in obscurity, known only to die-hard fans and historians of a specific genre.

Ok. Let's recap what we learned.

1. Steinski wears a fanny-pack. I don't mean to put him down for it, but it strikes me as a little strange. I guess it makes sense if you're traveling around a lot, playing gigs by yourself, and want to keep your personal items from being stolen. And when you've written a large chapter in the giant book of hip-hop history I guess you can wear whatever the hell you want. I'm surprised Diddy's Sean John clothing line doesn't offer one made from red velour studded with rhinestones.

2. I hardly knew ANYTHING he played. It was all fantastic, but I didn't recognize 90 percent of it! Although, with a 20 year head start on me it makes sense that his record collection should be a bit larger than mine.

3. Steinski seems like a really nice guy. I remember seeing him in Scratch and he seemed cool, cracking jokes and what-not. Seeing him in person, I felt the same way. He was chatting with a few people, checking out the people, making sure everyone was jiving to what he was playing. He just seemed really genuine.

4. Latin music is the best bet when you want the people to dance. Most of Steinski's show was early hip-hop, funk and soul, and with this being Minnesota, not many people were dancing. There was a small dance-off between two dudes, but that was hardly inspiring. To successfully incite dance, women are needed. One woman dancing alone acts as a lone nucleon in a particle accelerator, gathering speed and pulling in those nearest to her until she eventually collides with the other particles, releasing an enormous amount of collective energy. And the best fuel for this chain reaction is latin music. I was fortunate enough to witness this with my own eyes, without the aid of safety glasses.

5. Argyle is in. In a big way. At least among the art gallery yipster crowd. Argyle sweaters. Argyle ties. Argyle hats. Argyle socks. I think one guy even had argyle glasses. Also, mens footwear is starting to tread that fine line between what's suitable for the sexes. My prediction, in 5 years it'll be fashionable for men to wear stilettos. Knitted stilettos.

Check it out HERE.