When I moved to Pittsburgh in 2003, there was a band playing around town that I had heard about in college that I needed to check out immediately. What I’d heard about them is that they had two bass players, a ridiculously sick drummer, and played spacey improvised hip hop. That band was called BEAM.
At that time, my interest in hip hop was at an all time high and my love of jazz was growing. Live music was also a big part of my life and I couldn’t wait to be in a city to be able to check out what was happening. BEAM was a perfect fit and I saw them every chance I got.
BEAM was made up of two bass players, Paul Thompson (later Anthony Pecora) and Steve Landay. Paul (later Anthony) held down the groove and Landay would play the effects heavy “space bass”. On drums was Dave Throckmorton, whom I’ve covered on this blog several times, and who is one of my favorite drummers of all time. DJ Supa C, probably the best scratch DJ in the city at the time, manned the turntables and vocals were provided by Akil Esoon, whom I eventually had the opportunity to work with on a few projects.
The music BEAM created was basically drum ‘n’ bass infused, improvisational hip-hop. They had no written songs in the beginning. It was all live and all improvised. Their debut release, Inception, is a collection of some of their best live recordings. However, to fully experience them, you had to go out to their shows. Their live shows were not for everybody. They were often too jazzy and experimental for the hip-hop kids and too hip-hop for the jazz heads. Also, when an entire set consists of nothing but improvisation, including freestyle lyrics, there are going to be some lackluster or “off” moments. But when they clicked, even if it was only for 10 or 15 minutes out of a 45 minute set, it was a spontaneous and unique experience that you felt lucky to be witnessing and to be a part of.
Last night, I went down to the Thunderbird for the Tuesday night Space Exchange expecting to see the advertised lineup of Opie, Thompson, Parker and Throckmorton, basically Thoth Trio featuring Chris Parker on guitar. What I did not expect was for Akil to be there, mic in hand, and Ben Opie using a Guitar Hero guitar to trigger Midi effects. BEAM 2.0? This certainly felt like a BEAM reunion. Akil said that he and Throck have been talking about getting back together for a little while and this was the night for it to happen. This show brought on alot of feelings for me, mostly because it has been 10 years since I first saw BEAM and I realized how fast the time has gone and how much has changed in my life since then. There was a good vibe in the T-Bird. Throck, Akil and PT seemed super excited to be performing together again and this audience member was super excited to be taking it all in.
Here are a couple of videos I shot from the show. Enjoy…