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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Review: Atmosphere, Cypress Hill unleash a tidal wave of hip-hop at Pavilion at Riverfront

By Josh Neumeier For The Spokesman-Review

Rolling clouds and a setting sun were the artistry Mother Nature painted for the Inland Empire’s Saturday night hip-hop tidal wave of Atmosphere, Cypress Hill and DJ Z-Trip at the Pavilion at Riverfront.

A venue of stairs, grass and concrete floor filled up as the seconds were peeled away until Z-Trip took to his turntables with an arsenal of vinyl records. With most modern DJs, you usually get the artist pressing play on a laptop, which is the complete opposite with Z-Trip.

A DJ for more than 30 years and known for his vinyl-only approach of mix tapes and live shows, Z-Trip creates pure amazement with his needle sliding right into the track with precision each and every time.

Each crackle and pop through the speaker unleashed the horde into a world of genre-blurring tracks from Snoop Dogg to Led Zeppelin. This started a fire in the crowd that the daunting clouds could not suppress.

Z-Trip was just the opener, but he had two showings that were split by the lyrical juggernauts of L.A.’s Cypress Hill and Minnesota’s Atmosphere. The early 1990s showed the planet the sound of West Coast hip-hop, and newly formed Cypress Hill was the team who piqued the ears of the counter culture with pro-cannabis lyrics.

With the launch of their 1991 self-titled album, Cypress Hill changed everything for the culture of rap, at which time cannabis-specific lyrics were typically subdued or minimal in mainstream hip-hop.

As clouds billowed from the side stage-mounted fog machine when Cypress Hill took the stage, the floor filled with hundreds of fans all eager to hear B Reel’s vocal delivery. Track after track brought the crowd from the concrete to the sky as they partied with the lyrical masters.

Fans were blessed with the sounds of “A to the K,” then it got funky in the clouds with “Phuncky Feel One” before landing back on Earth with “Hand on the Pump,” then they mesmerized by DJ Lord and Eric Bobo as the duo jammed on the tables and drums that spun the crowd into an eruption with the beat dropping of “Dr. Greenthumb.”

Enough smoke had cleared as “Hits From the Bong” loaded up a chaos of dancing that did not let up until the last note cleared the speakers from set-ender “(Rock) Superstar.” With ears buzzing and high-fives tossed out like candy at a parade, the crowd continued with groovy beats by Z-Trip as Atmosphere’s crew loaded up on the Pavilion’s stage.

A wind of change swept through the venue, and as clouds moved, so did the fans to the front of the stage awaiting co-headliner Atmosphere. Slug (Sean Daley), Atmosphere frontman, took the stage, and DJ/producer Ant (Anthony Davis) accompanied Slug, as the Minnesota duo has been creating influential albums since 1996.

“We want you to meet your new two best friends – Atmosphere,” Slug said. Roars of applause and screams of excitement engulfed the audience while Slug simultaneously snatched his mic out of its resting place. The intro to “Puppets” chimed out piano keys, streaming over the PA system, and was muffled by the crowd’s enthusiasm.

With their endless options of hits, the set list had the creative trademark of Atmosphere that fans have loved since the late 1990s. Rolling out 20 tracks in a meager 90 minutes is no small feat, but that is Slug and Ant’s standard issue set that they have delivered since I first saw them 15 years ago.

The family-friendly crowd was home to the dancing antics of children of all ages. With spoken-word intros, piano samples and melodies also creating a rare vibe for dancing for fans of all ages, Atmosphere left nothing to the imagination.

Flowing from “The Loser Wins” and crowd-pleaser “Onemosphere,” Slug and the Spokane crowd became tied in unison as heads, closed fists and peace-signed hands bounced to “Pour Me Another.” “God Loves Ugly” brought the rain-soaked fans into “Sunshine,” a track that embraces listeners in a blanket of buttery-smooth positivity and offering warm spiritually.

With an open letter to his son Jacob, Slug conveyed his feelings in “Little Man,” a song that speaks about his relationship with his son and his dad, Craig, and closes with a verse about his self-awareness and accountability. The 4-minute track focuses on multiple open-for-interpretation scenarios that create that special bond between Atmosphere and fans.

As the rain was subsiding, the bass hit “Shrapnel,” “Scapegoat” and “Smart Went Crazy,” all of which Slug speaks to listeners from the heart of a man with a message about personal issues from which Atmosphere creates.

Slug dropped a freestyle with such liquid silkiness out of the nothingness of space and time that it seemed impossible it wasn’t laid out in front of him. But with a mind full of positivity and lyrics to showcase his connective capabilities to his surroundings, multiple minutes were ignited by his creative flame and one-of-a-kind approach to freestyling.

Through the closing seconds of meticulous freestyle flow, Atmosphere arrived at the end of the set with “Trying to Find a Balance,” a song with underlying hints of living a life of moderation. In true Atmosphere style, the beat ended, and the duo walked right off stage, apropos of one of their lyrics: “You never need an encore if you leave it all out onstage.”