PEANUT BUTTER WOLF @ THE BAKERY, FRIDAY JAN 18
I ferry my schooner from the bar into the growing crowd. Half-way in, I bump into a buddy. It’s dark but we discern each other’s knowing grins. Knowing, and a little disbelieving. Midsummer’s upon us, and with it, a frankly overwhelming heap of things to do, we agree. Many of these things are unmissable shows, featuring awe-inspiring folk from around the world, so many unmissable shows that I’ve inevitably missed a bunch of them; but here we were at PEANUT BUTTER WOLF, asking each other: has Perth always been this fun? Are we just late to the party? The density of quality, if not the amount of actual shows, certain seems be blossoming out of control. Observe this seven-day period alone: from Brian Shimkovitz (Awesome Tapes From Africa), to rapper-chef Action Bronson, to the aforementioned condiment hound; then there’s disco-punk legends ESG, Mount Eerie and Woods, and that’s before we even glance at the gamut of top-shelf local shows.
Yes, you already knew all this, and yes, writing about how “Perth isn’t actually that boring” is duller than “Dullsville” ever was, and no, having loads of cool gigs in one week is not exactly revelatory. But the point I’m inching towards is that amid the dizzying flurry of possibilities and satisfying array of actualities, I had actually totally forgotten PEANUT BUTTER WOLF was even in town tonight. So it was a pleasant surprise when, while pondering an appropriate watering-hole in which to wile away the evening, I realized I could do it in the midst of the founder of Stones Throw Records. Oh boy!
I meet a different buddy several hours prior. We snake through the streets, making pit stops in steamy all-night Chinese restaurants and street-corner liquor vendors. The Bakery then extends its velvetine arms and pulls us in, and we’re drenched in ricocheting beats and lithe grooves courtesy of deck-workers ROK RILEY, MISGEE and BENNY P (all are great, but Rok Riley gets the raw prawn, playing to an almost empty room. A bizarre state of affairs, since Riley is one of Perth’s finest. She still seems to be having fun, though).
A surprise treat comes in the form of JONTI. All I formerly knew about this guy was that he was Australia’s one signatory to Stones Throw. I then discovered that he’d been hand-picked by Gotye as a touring buddy and collaborated with Santigold, Hodgy Beats and more. Right now, I discover that Jonti is a polite (even meek), waistcoated beacon of intricate but instantly loveably psychedelic beat music, bridging the space between dense beat-production and song-based electronic pop. The dude is thrilling. A guitar made of a rectangular tin. APC wizardry. Tender beats and blips that melt in your mouth. Some wonderful hardware synth exploration, which is like the bit where Jonti dips his toes in the a swirling experimental wormhole, discovers he quite likes it, but has too many good ideas to stay in one place so runs to the other side of his mad-scientist setup and tries something else. Some of the vocals are less convincing, but I’m certain on record they’d shine. Reminiscent of local fiend NAIK, it seems that Jonti is a pretty great Aussie ambassador to have on the Stones Throw Roster.
And then – with only a thimbleful of ado – we are introduced to the man who is responsible for so many memorable release, so many killer parties; the label he started in the ‘90s has sculpted our tastes and thrown us in the deep end of some truly wild rap, beat and soul music. California’s PEANUT BUTTER WOLF is a walking legend, and while less known for his own creative efforts than for proliferating the work of others, he is no musical slouch. He introduces himself with a calm smile. The man couldn’t be more comfortable if he were reclining in a Lazy-Boy made of warm bread dough. The decks and projector fire up. He gazes out into the hall and tugs us into his world of audiovisual delights.
This is a DJ/VJ set, and his skill across both forms is impressive. The set is like a lovechild of the SAMPOLOGY and J-ROCC’s live work: fun found footage manipulated deftly, a profusion of classic hip-hop bangers, video clips warped and looped, flickering, melding into one another, taking curious and wonderful turns. PBW’s hip-hop obsession is well documented and he makes no effort to conceal it, exploring “segments” within the show that feature corkers by Wu-Tang, Gang Starr and other superstars – meanwhile, there’s the inevitable inclusion of Stones Throw favourites (MF Doom, J Dilla, Jaylib et al). There’s plenty of delving back into early and obscure hip-hop, sidestepping its commercial heyday; see Audio Two’s “Top Billin,” or the first Stones Throw release (Charizma & PBW) or, indeed, live footage of A Tribe Called Quest’s first ever performance (which is absolutely incredible. Woah). Into this mix, add curve balls like the Bee Gees, Radiohead, Marvin Gaye playing a drum solo, and so on. It’s a veritable feast. But what else would you expect in the middle of a week of musical feasts… from a DJing, producing, and general dream-weaving veteran with PEANUT BUTTER in his name? It’s a flawless set with just the right consistency. Never oily. Never dry.