It’s nearing midnight, and guitarist Brett Bakman is unleashing a guitar solo in the truest sense: center-stage, without any accompaniment from his band. Bakman is wailing. And, to be honest, it’s just a little bit weird.
Weird? I guess I just wasn’t expecting a guitar solo at a rap show.
But then again, this isn’t exactly your mama’s rap, either. Bakman plays for Thrasher, an up-and-coming rapper in his early 20s who has begun to make a name for himself by combining the feel-good vibes of Sublime-inspired sunshine rock with hip-hop. Whereas most cross-over hip-hop/rock bands so far have focused on the angry elements of both (think Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park, for starters), Thrasher’s sound is, for the most part, danceable and upbeat, belonging more to the chill hip-hop that spawned it than the rock scene which has adopted and refined it.
Tonight, Thrasher brings his crew to the Whisky a Go-Go on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Thrasher opens with a recent single, “Red Lipstick Girl,” a catchy love song about a girl and her trademark makeup which, understandably, “leaves the traces of her kisses.” Cautious for the first few bars, new drummer Greg Lewis quickly falls in step with the rest of the band, especially longtime friend and bassist Thomas Hurwitz. The two lay down a solid foundation for Thrasher, Bakman and co-vocalist Addison Doby, which carries the group through the show.
Moving forward, the band launches into one of its trademark numbers, “Good Ol’ Days,” a song made for singalongs that has Thrasher waxing nostalgic about a time when “school was the only thing that worried me.” Thrasher and Doby hit their stride as close friends and cooperative rappers, just as Lewis has happily and deftly settled into his role as the group’s new rhythmic base (if the big, honest smile on his face is any indication). For now, Thrasher and his crew revel in the summertime vibe they have reinvented with “Good Ol’ Days” and the love song “Summer Can Last Forever.”
As the show moves into its latter half, Thrasher pays tribute to the band and artists who inspired him and his sound with “If I Had a Million Dollars,” an adaptation of Sublime’s “Santeria” which features original verses (rapped, of course) over the familiar chords (not to mention Hurwitz’s lovely falsetto harmony and a capella introduction). Although Thrasher and crew seem accustomed to more intimate venues than the Whisky (“You ain’t dancing enough in here,” he says after the first song), the crowd has a predicable soft spot for Sublime and, before you know it, they’re all singing along, prompting Doby to joke afterward, “Y’all like us just a little bit? Just a tad?”
After the aforementioned guitar solo, the band closes its short set with “Ray Banz,” an explosive blend of Rage Against the Machine riffs, slick fuzz bass and dance-floor beats that’s a bit harder than Thrasher’s usual fare but works nicely (“I got my Ray-Bans on, and I’m ready for fame,” he sings). If anything, “Ray Banz” shows the inventiveness and successes of Thrasher’s sound: he’s paying tribute to Sublime one minute and to Rage Against the Machine the next, both in the context of rap and without any incongruity.