Saba keeps Westward Music Festival hype on its fourth and final day

Saba with Kimmortal and Goldstepz at Venue Nightclub, 9/16/18

Saba. Courtesy of Chicago Reader.

West Side Chicago rapper Saba and guests Kimmortal and Goldstepz brought hype and social consciousness to their early show at Venue Nightclub Sunday night (Sept. 16). They did not close out Westward Music Festival – that distinction went to Andy Shauf across the street at the Vogue Theatre later that night – but they put on one of the most energetic shows of the entire weekend.

South Burnaby rapper Goldstepz showed off his budding swagger with help from a small crew that included another rapper (his brother Dante) and DJ Mac. He got the room vibing with a handful of chill tracks including “Time Flies,” but he won the early crowd over with his more aggressive cuts. The bass level on “Damn” shook the floor.

“My soles are tingling,” someone in the crowd said afterwards. He had to call everyone to move up to the stage before he began his set, but by the time he started spitting heavily on tracks like “Never Understand,” the crowd had started bouncing and then voluntarily moved even closer.

Kim Villagante, aka Kimmortal, opened with more than just a land acknowledgement of unceded Coast Salish Territories. The Filipino multidisciplinary artist acknowledged that she was a POC. But she pointed out that not all POCs were the same: She did not share Saba’s specific experiences. But she did sense his humanity in his handshake when they briefly met earlier that day.

Between songs, Kimmortal also acknowledged her queer femme identity and spoke on decolonization, intersectional feminism, and racism. “I’m going to choose to love me over you,” she sang on “I’m Blue,” a nod to the importance of self-care. Her messages, whether spoken, sang, or rapped, stressed inclusivity. “Ancestral Clock (Boom Bop)” was a literal manifestation of that inclusivity; it seemed written with the audience in mind as they easily joined in on the call-and-response of “boom bop.”

Unfortunately, the cello, violin, and acoustic guitar featured on much of her recorded music were absent live, but her vigour, passion, and conviction were on full display. And her band – guitarist Breanna McDaniel, drummer Ian Cardona, and bassist Christine Bacani – more than made up for any instrumental “deficiencies.”

In his second Vancouver appearance in four months, Saba brought the same energy he always does. This time, he was backed by producers daedaePIVOT and Daoud and DJ Dam Dam. Daoud also played keyboards, which accented songs like “BUSY,” “SIRENS,” and “BROKEN GIRLS” but took focus on “CALLIGRAPHY.”

“Vancouver, y’all fuck with any music that comes out of Chicago?” Saba asked. He followed this leading question and its ensuing cheers by rapping his part on “Angels,” from Chance the Rapper’s 2016 mixtape Coloring Book. He also rapped his part on “Church (Liquor Store),” despite the absence of fellow Chicagoan Noname, who featured on the track.

Saba’s set hit peak hype on his third last song “MOST,” even though on record, it is a sedated track. The crowd’s energy maintained for the next track “LIFE” and “Westside Bound 3,” his only encore.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu