“That show was a totally off-the-cuff idea,” says Boston Event Works booker Ron Peleg, who along with Harpers talent buyer Dan Millen conceived the spectacle. “We followed the Roots model; if those bands could do it right, there was no reason a legend like Rick couldn’t do it. At a lot of traditional hip-hop shows, people are getting the same thing over and over, but this is entirely different — especially for someone from Rick’s generation and the people who come to see him.”
A partnership was born. But after rocking some New England venues with Rick that winter, Audible relocated to Long Beach, California, and Peleg had to devise a fresh strategy for booking Rick, whose new operation was in increasing demand. The obvious choice, he figured, was the Eclectic Collective, which had been booked to back Rick at the initial Harpers show in the first place. (“We took another gig for more money instead,” says EC guitarist Salim Akram.) Despite being in the process of shedding the hip-hop classification that it earned opening rap shows at the Middle East, EC weren’t about to let the opportunity slip again — particularly since it had worked so well for amicable rivals Audible Mainframe.
“Our first show with Rick was a booze cruise in New York around this time last year, and it was totally weird,” says Akram. “There was no rehearsal; and on top of that we showed up and there were no turntables for his DJ, Chaos. So instead of having to play just the half-hour of material that we rehearsed, we had to play the whole show, including the parts that the DJ would ordinarily handle. There were kinks, but we just put our own twist, and it ended up being cool. After the show we talked to his agent and manager, and they thought we did well.”
Rick thought so too — at least enough to keep them for the next night at the Stephen Talkhouse in the Hamptons. “The second show went a lot smoother,” Akram continues. “The boat was cramped, and Rick was just hanging in the corner with his wife for the first one, but at the Talkhouse we got to really chill with him. Now it’s at the point where we meet up and talk shit before the shows.”
Whereas EC spent much of last year doing weekend spots with Rick at East Coast venues including B.B. King’s in Times Square, Audible held down his shows from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, where their June performance at the Knitting Factory helped the band make their first major impression on California turf. Around the same time, Rick made a successful Southeastern run with the Press Project, leading Boston Event Works to book another West Coast tour with Audible last month, and a nine-city stint with EC that starts with the Harpers show next Thursday.