Home / Concert Reviews / Wolf Eyes w/ Juiceboxxx @ Stonefly Brewing Co.
Monday, Feb. 21, 2011

Wolf Eyes w/ Juiceboxxx @ Stonefly Brewing Co.

Feb. 18, 2011

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On Friday, Feb. 18, much of the world had been thrown into turmoil. While thousands of protesters converged on the state Capitol in Madison, pro-democracy activists took to the streets on the other side of the globe in countries like Libya and Yemen. Fear and a palpable sense of dread were definitely in the air in all these locations—but so was the feeling of hope and the possibility of liberation. The simultaneity of all of these movements seemed more than coincidental. In the face of repression, people from these disparate locations were standing up for their rights. Yes, these protests sometimes plunged into chaos and, in countries like Libya, real violence. Yet there emerged a belief that something new could emerge out of such disorder.

It was with these events in mind that I tried to make sense of the crowded Friday night bill at the Stonefly Brewing Co. with Wolf Eyes, Bloodyminded, Envenomist, Juiceboxxx and Mildew. I had gone into the show thinking that the tortured sounds of the Michigan-based noise-rock act Wolf Eyes might make a perfect soundtrack for the protests playing out across the globe. Yet there is something in the sound of Wolf Eyes—along with acts such as Bloodyminded—that reminds me of the Bush-Cheney years. It’s not surprising that the band came of age during the high point of the War on Terror: They produce songs that really do sound like torture.

But it was Milwaukee’s own Juiceboxxx that was able to create a sound most suitable for what is happening in the here and now. I will admit that I’ve never given the rapper much credit, as I saw him more as a novelty act than anything else (dorky suburban white rapper jumping around and yelling simplistic rhymes). Such an assessment, however, misses just how much Juiceboxxx has improved as both a rapper and a performer over the past five years. With a live guitarist in tow, songs such as “100 MPH” and “Thunder Jam #5” sounded tighter and louder than in the past. And Juiceboxxx played these cuts with a real sense of exuberance, creating the feeling that these songs—despite their often humorous undertones—mean a lot to the young rapper.

This is not to say that Juiceboxxx has become a consummate professional. There was a great degree of spontaneity in his set, as the rapper ran through the crowd, jumped up onto the speakers, and knocked a glass off a table. While I appreciate such unexpected behavior, what really struck me as I watched Juiceboxxx was his emotional honesty. After admitting that he was out of shape (the result of recording an upcoming album) and exhorting the crowd to put their hands in the air (“What good is a white rapper if he can’t get a crowd to put its hands in the air?” he asked the audience), the rapper launched into a stellar version of his “I Don’t Wanna Go Into the Darkness.” As Juiceboxxx rapped that “All the kids and everyone are searching for a dream,” it became clear that rap has probably saved this kid’s life. As he wrapped up his set I couldn’t help but smile—and feel a little more hopeful about the world around me.

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