Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
By the end of Tah Phrum Duh Bush’s performance at ReverbNation’s event at this year’s CBGB Festival he’d shed half a dozen layers of clothing, applied, and wiped off, half a face’s worth of face paint, called multiple people up on stage to hold large signs, and given out a plethora of self-made diplomas.
It was all in a night’s work for the Brooklyn hip-hop artist, who is a veteran of stages around the world, as his goal when he performs is to leave the audience with plenty to talk about.
“If I have the time to put on a full concert,” Tah explains, “I want people to be engaged throughout the whole thing, because it can get pretty boring with somebody standing there with the mic just rapping at you.”
Although Tah’s albums, 2010’s insomnia inspired Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works, and 2005’s Sunshine or Pure Shade, are where the bulk of the music for his live shows comes from, his inspirations for performance go back to his pre-teen years, when he first saw the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. “Every five minutes something different was happening on stage,” he recalls, “it was just some completely different stuff, and I was like wow, man, this is amazing.”
The vibe after the show also made a lasting impression on Tah, as he notes, “Everybody in the place left there with a smile on their face, talking about ‘do you remember this part? Do you remember that part? Do you remember the other part?’ I always wanted my stage show to be like that.”
Obviously an independent artist doesn’t have the budget of Radio City Music Hall, but having limited resources wasn’t so much a roadblock for Tah, but rather a launching pad for inspiration. He points to a scene from the classic movie Beat Street as an example of doing a lot with a little, saying, “They turned the lights off, and they had white gloves, and it was pretty fresh. You don’t need a whole bunch of pyrotechnics, and all that other stuff, just to give people something different that they’ll remember for a long time.”
Something different, and something memorable, is what Tah specializes in. For his song “Micro-PH-One-01,” where he teaches the audience the correct way to use a microphone, he dons a graduation outfit, has an audience member come up on stage to hold visual aids, and gives out diplomas to the crowd. For “Lay That Pipe,” Tah’s colorful ode to lovemaking, he has the crowd do a fist pumping motion with their arms, and at one point he gets on the floor and mimics his own bedroom skills.
Although Tah loves inspiring a crowd, sometimes a concertgoer will get a little too inspired. “I had one show called Butt Naked Alien Groupies,” he remembers, “and I had these inflatable alien sex dolls, and this guy jumps up on stage and he starts humping the inflatable doll. It wasn’t even during the song ‘Lay That Pipe,’ he just jumped up on stage and started humping it. That was bananas.”
The alien sex dolls are no more (according to Tah, “They both got holes in them after a while. Other kinds of holes”), but Tah continues to create new ways to entertain, and engage with his audience. It’s an audience that oftentimes includes other New York hip-hop luminaries. At the CBGB’s Festival, Homeboy Sandman, Hired Gun, and Rabbi Darkside were all in the crowd, as fans, just to name a few.
While Tah takes great pride in knowing his work is resonating with artists he respects, he also truly enjoys the connections his work has made with his entire fan base.
“I’ve had so many people, particularly with Luminous Dark Alleys, call me up and tell me that they didn’t think that there were people out there who they could relate to in such a manner, and they thought they were alone in their thought process, and they’ve read my book (that comes with the album) two, three, maybe four times. It’s pretty incredible when somebody tells you something like that. That’s probably the most touching thing to me, when people actually take the time to pick up the phone and call you, or send you an email, or walk up to you at a show, it might not even be my show, or have somebody else come up and tell me my book affected somebody they know, or my CD affected somebody they know, or just one song, or just one line in one song, has made such an impact in their life that they have to play it over and over again. It’s pretty crazy because I know these are ways I feel about other people’s music that I listen to. It’s like this one line hits me here, and I’ll send an email of thanks, just to say thank you, if I can come in contact with that person. It’s an amazing thing.”
The next album of Tah’s for people to connect with will be Grown Ass Man Angry Boom Bap Music, which is set for release in the summer of 2014, with a lead single being slated to drop in February, or March. Until then, Tah will be continuing to wow audiences with his live shows, you’ll just have to provide your own alien sex dolls.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.