Every so often it can be a blast to get out of town on a weeknight and see a show somewhere new. Even if the show is lousy it can be fun just to have new scenery, and see new people. My brother told me that Wu Tang Clan member GZA “The Genius” was doing a show in Oberlin, and that he would be performing a large chunk of his classic album Liquid Swords. So we decided to buy a couple presale tickets to avoid a sell out and headed off to Oberlin.
I have never been to this club before which in reality is just the basement of a school building that someone decided to put a small stage, some lights, a sound system, and a bar. There were no signs or announcements anywhere on campus for the show, but the long line of kids standing around outside one building tipped us off. One person in line told us the official name of the place is the Dionysus Club.
The long line turned out not to be a hassle as it moved swiftly and promptly at ten into the stage area. We were entertained by dance music while wild college kids who don’t have to work in the morning drank and danced with reckless abandon. At around 11:30 pm two unassuming generic stereotypical college kids took the stage with samplers in tow and began a set of high adrenaline techno. The crowd got really amped and I felt older and older as the set went on.
Just after twelve Killa Priest, another Wu Tang collaborator, took the stage and belted out a few songs of his own. The one thing that became instantly obvious was the awesome quality of the sound system. If there is one thing that turns me off at hip hop shows it’s when the sound is so jacked up, the bass is insanely high, and there are fifteen people onstage all trying to go at once and all the crowd hears is noise and static. This was not the case. Every last syllable spit by Killa Priest was crystal clear.
The tickets were twenty bucks, but if you were a student it was only ten dollars. The place had a sign on the wall that said the capacity was 500 and I can pretty much guarantee there were 498 students along with my brother and I. we were the official creepy townies that no one wanted to acknowledge. Where were you Cleveland hip-hop heads?
The moment of truth came when the intro to the Liquid Swords album began over the PA. Instantly the wild crowd got even wilder as the air was filled with hands forming the “W” sign. As the intro ended Gza was nowhere to be found, and the sound was cut off as Killa Priest said they needed five more minutes. If there is one thing the Wu was notorious for back in their heyday it was showing up ultra late or not at all to their shows and then only playing short sets so immediately I got worried that there would be no show.
Luckily those worries were unfounded, for five minutes later Gza stormed the stage and took control of the crowd instantly! He came out all smiles flanked by a hype man that resembled a young Method Man, and I am fairly certain they were enjoying themselves.
As they ripped through song after song, Gza seemed to be getting stronger and stronger feeding energy off the crowd and shooting right back into the crowd as he engaged the club front to back. I didn’t get a set-list, but it was basically the Liquid Swords album plus a few WU snippets and other solo stuff. Gza fit Oberlin into a song and made sure to tell everyone to stay in school and be the best they could be, and that led to a funny moment during his set. Gza noticed a young girl with a Wu Tang Clan tattoo, and he asked her how old she was. She replied that she was eighteen, and he laughed and said something about her being about three years old when 36 Chambers, their first album, came out and that the Wu was still and would always be relevant.
I couldn’t help but bob my head with enthusiasm watching the guys onstage pour their heart into the performance. Everyone onstage including the dj seemed to be having a blast and it came through in the delivery. Usually when I go see hip hop groups they will perform only small portions of each song, but Gza was going coast to coast by himself song after song and it made for an intense set. Gza single-handedly got me excited to hear more WU, and look out for other members to tour in the area.
Just as we eclipsed the hour mark in the set, and it seemed the crowd was coming down from the amazing high it had ridden Gza got an “ODB” chant going, and in the blink of an eye the crowd was whipped into a frenzy as the opening piano line from the seminal OBD anthem “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” blasted throughout the club.
The set was ended because of a college curfew, but no one left feeling like they got jipped. Then Gza said after the show he would sign any t-shirts, cd’s or anything out by his tour bus, and stayed onstage to slap hi-fives, and was still beaming like he had the time of his life. If you have a chance to see Gza “The Genius” in your town don’t hesitate to get your ticket.