PHARCYDE: ALL THE WAY LIVE
OBSERVATORY, SANTA ANA
The first time I saw the Pharcyde was at Lollapalooza ’94. They played the second stage at the Cal State Dominguez Hills velodrome. I can’t remember the exact placement, but there was a half-pipe constructed in front and to the right of the stage, and I was sitting about fifteen rows behind it. About half way through Pharcyde’s set, Chris Miller, Christian Hosoi, and (I think) Mike McGill began to session the ramp and it was glorious: Quincy Jones “Summer in the City” loop into, ”Now in my younger days…”melding with a soaring Christ air—all connecting into the Zen that Perry Farrell envisoned.
That day I saw Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, and the Breeders (the Smashing Pumpkins played too, but fuck that whiny singer); however, it was the Pharcyde’s jazzy, stony, bratty, smooth and epic performance combined with the legendary skate session as a backdrop that resonated with me the strongest.
A few years later, I would see the Pharcyde with Cypress Hill and (cough, cough) 311 in San Diego, backing their seminal (in my mind) album, Labcabincalifornia. Again, they were great.
Since then, over twenty years have passed me by. Like most old guys, I grow more pessimistic, arthritic, and slower by the year–and tend to glorify any event that happened in my twenties as if God had written it. With that said, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from their show at the Observatory in Santa Ana. Like most fans, I was aware of the Pharcyde split, resulting in the formation of two groups, both purporting to be the real Pharcyde. I had also shamelessly read a few ignorant and disparaging Lonzo Ball like hater comments on social media directed at this version of the Pharcyde and had somewhat decided that a Pharcyde minus Fatlip was not legit.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Pharcyde have obviously been putting in work on their show for the past twenty or so years since I last saw them because they brought the noise, the ruckas, set the roof on fire, and burned down the house.
The night started with Premier like precision of DJ Mike Relm cutting Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean with the style and precision of Uma Thurman welding a Hattori Hanzo sword with Harvey Weinstein as her foil. Relm is a master of mixing video with scratching and he quickly segued into a jazz, swing, hip hop journey matching the background film of retro b-boys battling on top of his beats. As the adrenalin of the room catalyst, he transitioned into the Pete Rock and CL Smooth classic “T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over you) before summoning Bootie Brown and Imani: The Pharcyde.
The Pharcyde stuck to the classics, breaking necks with beloved tracks like “Drop”, “Oh Shit”, “Running”, “Hey You,” and of course “Passing Me By.” They played for over an hour and a half, taking this old guy on a journey through the past with some Funkadelic styled, acid remixes, Relm’s master cuts, and the pure, youthful, jazz driven joy that encompassed Bizarre Ride II and Labcabincalifornia.
So, it wasn’t Lollapalooza ‘94; or even a completely reunited Pharcyde. On this night, none of that really mattered, ‘cause the Pharcyde are still “proceeding, leading…” like the gods they are.