POWerful return to form with Jasmine and Licorice

A set that likely left many patrons with bruises and acute dehydration.

BY Declan Burke.

After not seeing Fremantle’s biggest upcoming hip-hop/jazz/rock fusion group POW! Negro in six months, I was curious to see how they had changed as a band.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way now- they fucking rock, in both senses of the word. With a driving guitar, powerful drums and a Zack De La Rocha or Killer Mike-type aggression from frontman Yung Squid, the band blasted out a set that likely left many patrons with bruises and acute dehydration, though 100% worth it. It’s worth noting that the mixing at the Rosemount was exceptional, and despite being pressed up against the stage for the entire gig, my ears felt fine after the show.

Fresh off a short tour of the southwest, and battling colds – apparently the whole band were basically inhaling entire bottle of eucalyptus oil backstage – this is no mean feat for any band, but the POW! boys delivered once again. Yung Squid’s theatrical training served almost alarmingly well, as he swapped between what felt like a chorus of different characters on Hidle Ho, the single that preceded their new EP: Jasmine and Licorice.

The new tracks on the EP will likely be no stranger to an avid fan of the band, but it’s good to hear some variety coming out of the group. The sensual and powerful Hold My Tongue features the impressively smooth tones of Moiya, the band’s drummer. Night Drive has always been the band’s most peaceful tune, but their delivery has grown exponentially over the past six months. Displaying an incredible aptitude to change the mood of a room in well under a minute, Night Drive now feels like plunging your head into the Indian ocean on a dark, warm summer night, rather than just “the slow song”.

It wasn’t all relaxing, because as any POW! fan knows, the majority of their repertoire is incredibly high energy. And boy did they come through. Yung Squid’s shirt buttons are not long for this world I fear, and he spent a significant amount of the concert about a foot in the air. Chip Hazard, Kaprou and Ubulove seem quite content to sit in their own impressive grooves, and let Yung Squid dominate the stage, but any change of the vocalist, be it Moiya or Faoul Duke, is always greeted with screams of celebration. And as always, Young Motherfuckers was greeted with pure, unadulterated glee. I remember making bizarre, intimate eye contact with a complete stranger next to me during the opening notes, neither of us quite able to believe that they were actually going to play it, both of us knowing we might lose a tooth in the next few minutes; such is the POWer of this live show.

For their last few songs, POW! Negro were joined on stage by some brass-wielding members of WAYSO, the West Australian Youth Symphony Orchestra. While Kaprou Lea, the band’s saxophonist, is more than capable of holding down the sultry and/or energetic melodies as required by the group, WAYSO was a welcome addition to the line-up, continuing a proud tradition of hip-hop bands bringing an extra three horn players to the stage for live shows.

Look, if you’ve gotten this far into the article and you wouldn’t pay $15(!) to see not only POW! Negro, but also young MC KNOE, the bewitching Grievous Bodily Calm, and The Weapon Is Sound, then let me convince you. Their live show is akin to Rage Against The Machine meets Busta Rhymes, but they just saw Madlib out back and decided to invite him on stage as well. In fact, the only detrimental aspect of the show is that sometimes, when you’re yelling along to the live-only Young Motherfuckers, someone in front of you will smack your jaw closed with their shoulder and leave you with a bruised lip.

You can, and should, stream the EP on Spotify, pay what you want on Bandcamp, look them up on Soundcloud, or just go to a show sometime. Seriously, go. They criminally undervalue themselves, so see them while it’s still cheap.

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