Madison, Wisconsin is in F Stokes’ blood. His small-town aesthetic is evident not only in his music, demeanor and performances, but also his fan base. Playing to a crowd not quite aware they would not be seeing Digable Planets, Stokes nimbly negotiated a set list of spoken word pieces, kooky anecdotes and jazzy, soulful hip-hop music that seemed right at home in a town overrun with Madison transplants.
At one point in his set, Stokes inexplicably began to tell a story about how Rihanna walked past him once sitting courtside at a Los Angeles Clippers game. Shortly after ruminating how the experience left him contemplating, "Stroking off in the parking lot," he delved into a ballad set to Celine Dion’s theme from Titanic. He ended the set in the middle of the crowd, leading a raucous hand circle reminiscent of an NBA pre-game ritual. He seemed as comfortable on stage as he did off, blending with the crowd during the dubious ‘Digable’ set that followed.
When we first got word that seminal 1990s hip-hop trio Digable Planets would be playing a show in our backyard, our excitement was palpable. While Ishmael ‘Butterfly’ Butler has been cooking up extraterrestrial atmospherics with his Seattle-based group Shabazz Palaces (QRO album review), we’ve seen little from Digable Planets since Butler and Craig ‘Doodlebug’ Irving played a few ‘reunion’ shows without Ladybug Mecca back in 2005.
But even two-thirds of Digable Planets would have been preferable to the sham put on Tuesday, December 20th at Brooklyn Bowl. Instead of a reunion to remember, the crowd was instead treated to Doodlebug’s new venture, Cee Knowledge & The Cosmic Funk Orchestra; Irving thanked the crowd for enduring a headlining act they didn’t come to see, seemingly placating them with the occasional DP cover.
While those in attendance at the bourgie bowling alley (QRO venue review) seemed to remain in good spirits, some even dancing along to the anonymous (but admittedly pleasant) tunes, not everyone was pleased with the promoter’s feint. One young man relieving himself during Doodlebug’s set contemplated "knocking out everyone on stage" to make up for his disappointment.
"Yeah," his friend said, standing next to him at the urinal. "Except Doodlebug."