Feedback: Aesop Rock

Lyrical rapper performs with pals at the Domino Room

By Ben Salmon / The Bulletin / @frequencyblog

Published May 3, 2013 at 05:00AM

Very early on Sunday morning (actually, what your brain thinks of as Saturday night), I was sitting in the dark at my computer Googling the words “Rob Sonic weight loss.”

And that's when it occurred to me: If you come home from a rap show and one of the first things you do is try to figure out how many pounds one of the sidemen has shed since last time you saw him, it's possible the rest of the night didn't stimulate your senses as much as you'd have liked.

Don't get me wrong: Watching Aesop Rock rap is always a good time. At 36 years old, the guy is still supernaturally skilled on the mic and a brilliant lyricist, and his newest album, “Skelethon,” is a reminder that he's a solid beatmaker, too.

And we haven't even mentioned his excellent and extensive back catalog. For my money, Aes — pronounce it “ace” in your head — is one of hip-hop's giants over the past decade and a half.

So I was definitely looking forward to his return to Bend's Domino Room on Saturday night. It had been more than four years since his last show here, a wait extended by a cancellation in January thanks to a broken rib.

Just like last time, the headliner was on the mic early, or at least what I think of as early for a rap show. I walked in at 10:15 p.m. and Aes was doing “Racing Stripes” while opener Busdriver gave a guy named Tyler a haircut onstage. Dude's wig got butchered, but hey ... it was fun.

From there, the man I came to see took us through a couple of his own non-album tracks (“Nickel Plated Pockets” and “Holy Smokes,” both built on shadowy beats), an interlude for DJ Big Wiz to show off his considerable turntable skills, and a Rob Sonic solo track that I think is brand new.

Interspersed were a couple of songs by Hail Mary Mallon, a group comprised of Aes, Sonic and Wiz. And truth be told, the synth-boom-bap of “Smock” was a highlight of the night.

But, y'know ... more Aesop Rock doing Aesop Rock songs, please.

He delivered, eventually, ripping through “Skelethon” singles “ZZZ Top,” “Cycles To Gehenna” (with its wonderful third act set to stark, somber piano) and “Zero Dark Thirty.” The latter's roller-coaster melody and skittish beat stood out among the bass-drenched rumbles that overwhelmed other songs' subtleties.

In the end, Aes gave the people what they want, doing fan-fave oldies “Nightlight” and “Daylight” and then reaching way back for “No Regrets” from his classic 2001 album “Labor Days.”

It all sounded good. The performers performed well. I enjoyed myself, truly. And the medium-sized crowd seemed to do the same.

I just walked out of the Domino Room feeling like I'd bought a ticket to an Aesop Rock show but ended up seeing a stop on the Aesop Rock & Friends Present The Traveling Rhymesayers Revue Tour.

And I never figured out how much weight Rob Sonic has lost. Has to be at least 50 pounds. The guy looks great. So kudos to him.

Watch video of Aesop Rock's performance in Bend at www.bendbulletin.com/frequency