Sometimes you see a listing for an event and you know immediately that you can not pass it up. Stephanie called a few days back to tell me about ToonTime with THE RZA and we knew that this was such an event.
Musician/Actor/Writer/Icon-extraordinaire RZA — A.K.A. Bobby Digital — is the artist in residence at this year’s LA Film Festival. His duties include — amongst other things — selecting a few of the movies (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and putting on a baddass show last night.
The basic idea of the show was that RZA would lay down some tracks live to 1930’s-era cartoons. As he explained, this was something he’s been doing since "back in the Shaolin days, back in Staten Island." He also had a device that he called a "DJV" that allowed him to play with the speed, direction and timing of the video as easily as he did the audio. When he wasn’t changing up the music to go with the cartoons, he was changing up the cartoons to go with the music. It was some pretty amazing stuff.
His choices of music and cartoons were great as well. At one point, he had Superman fighting off an army of robot bank robbers to the sounds of Bobby Womack’s "Across 110th Street." He played some Tex Averey stuff, old pirate cartoons, etc. to motown, funk, disco, a little hip hop.
Seeing RZA live gave me a whole new universe of respect for him. He becomes the music when he performs. The beats take over his body, controlling his movements while he’s controlling the beats. It’s pretty cool stuff. The energy and intensity and fun he brings to the whole scene made the show even more perfect.
This was also our first show at the Ford Amphitheater. It’s like a smaller, much more intimate version of the Hollywood Bowl. The worst seat is 94′ from the stage, you can bring a picnic in and eat it at your seat or at one of the tables outside, and they don’t search your bags when you come in. Quite unusually, they let you smoke at the Ford. As this was an LA Film Festival event, the crowd was thick with hipsters, which at one point prompted Stephanie to say "I don’t know how much more American Spirit smoke I can stand."
Probably the strangest moment of the evening came before the show started. A rep from film aid came out to tell us about their good works (I believe a portion of the proceeds from the LA Film Festival goes to film aid). Now, this is well and good, and I’m all for chartable works, especially in developing nations. However, when the speaker told us that in Kenya, film had become "as important as food and water," it was all I could do to not laugh out loud (I think the people sitting next to us could see us doing our best in a losing effort to conceal uproarious laughter). I’m sure that they like movies over in Africa, but the odds are slim that they’d pass up clean water and a good meal for opening night tickets to War of the Worlds. I guess there’s nothing quite like amazing hubris to take away anything even vaguely resembling credibility.
RZA had a little treat for the Wu fans in the audience at the end of the show. He brought Method Man out to say "hi" to everybody and showed a video for Shimmy Shimmy Ya to give everybody their fix of the dearly departed ODB. His parting shot was "smoke that smoke, drink that drink, POW."