The Pirate Signal
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The Pirate Signal

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"Hip Hop - Rap: The Pirate Signal - Of Gods and Gangsters [LP]"

Monday, December 01, 2008
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by B.A. Frederick

One of the only artists to bridge gaps between Hip/Hop and other local genres, The Pirate Signal has been collecting an eclectic following all the while maintaining their classic yet refined underground style. The Pirate Signal show is a real show, and their albums? A show on disc – if that was even possible. Of Gods and Gangsters, (recorded and mixed by Joey Kuvo @ Kuvo Studios), is Yonnas and DJ AWhat’s newest promotional 14-track album that’s beyond classic from start to the bittersweet end. Though taking a slightly newer direction than his previous albums, TPS still has their powerful messages maintaining the forefront of their music. Attend a show, visit the merch booth, and experience exactly what I mean. X - Colorado Music Buzz

"Live Review: 3OH!3, Chain Gang of 1974 and the Pirate Signal @ The Fox Theatre"

Having seen 3OH!3 at each of the past two Warped Tours (click here and here for details), I expected more of the same on August 23 at the first of two sold-out Fox shows -- and that would have been fine with me, since Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte have evolved into two of the most entertaining performers in this or any other area code. But something else was on the agenda. The 3OH!3 boys appeared with a full band -- a drummer, guitarist and bassist, plus a DJ referred to by Motte as BFF -- as well as a helmeted, Lycra-suited dancer dubbed Perpetual Thrust. The plan, clearly, was to work out the kinks related to the group's expansion in preparation for its first national headlining tour, slated to get underway in October, and that's a good thing -- because kinks there were.
Photo: Dave Herrera
Yonnas from the Pirate Signal

Granted, no such problems afflicted The Pirate Signal, the initial band on the bill. Frontman Yonnas and DJ Awhat faced a daunting task: The crowd was dominated by under-21 sorts (like my fifteen-year-old daughters, Lora and Ellie, who accompanied me) clad in 3OH!3 regalia, and they didn't start out in a patient mood. Before Yonnas had spoken more than a sentence or two, someone declared, "You're boring!" But that wasn't true in the slightest. Yonnas' exuberance and magnetism proved infectious, and after early sound problems were overcome, the backing tracks spun by DJ Awhat reeled the crowd in and kept them on the hook. Highlights included songs such as "Jiggle It" and "I Can't Wait," not to mention an amusing Yonnas speech that championed Cliff Huxtable over 50 Cent. Ain't nothin' more gangsta than an argyle sweater.
Photo: Dave Herrera
Chain Gang of 1974

For me, Chain Gang of 1974, which has been tapped to open for 3OH!3 on its forthcoming jaunt, failed to maintain the Signal's vibe. Kamtin Mohager, supplemented by drummer Adam Halferty, poured every ounce of energy conceivable into his Eighties-tastic post-disco dance ditties -- tapping at an assortment of percussion devices (more cowbell!), slamming his bass, and constantly readjusting a knit cap before finally stripping it off to reveal his visage in all its handsomeness. Moreover, his set-capping dive into the crowd from one of the Fox's handrails ended the exhibition on an appropriately wild note. For me, though, the tunes didn't stand on their own. Rather, they merged into a single, undifferentiated groove that, while pleasant enough, grew less and less interesting over time. Still, there's nothing wrong with this Chain Gang that a few good songs couldn't fix.
Photo: Dave Herrera
This is as close to 3OH!3 as we could get.

Then came 3OH!3, preceded to the stage by a synthesized flourish from Ennio Morricone's classic score from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Motte and Foreman were dressed in all-white, as were their new band members. Didn't catch the names of any of the latter musicians, who Motte joked about finding at, but they looked liked session pros, hired hands -- particularly the guitarist, who Ellie thought she recognized from Katy Perry's Warped Tour ensemble. Don't know about that, since we only caught about fifteen seconds of Perry's set before splitting earlier this summer. Whatever the case, the ax-man appeared to be considerably older than his lasest employers, and when they spotlighted him near the end of the set, he played several seconds of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- not exactly the kind of thing that necessarily connects to the 3OH!3 oeuvre.

Fortunately, the songs still sounded like 3OH!3, albeit fuller and heavier -- and that will take a bit of getting used to for fans as well as the two lead emcees; they occasionally had to shout to be heard during passages whose recorded versions feature more air. There's also the matter of live interaction. Motte, especially, tried to include the other players in his onstage antics, but with the exception of his exchanges with the appropriately wacky Perpetual Thrust, these actions lacked the naturalness and easy camaraderie of his rapport with Foreman. For the most part, then, the players served as a backdrop for the main men's antics, as opposed to becoming part of them.

Other rubs: After Foreman blew the cue for "Richman," he had to stop the song and start again. (He confessed his error in a humorous way, and the second go-round scored big.) Shortly thereafter, the boys performed a new country song -- it resembled a Kid Rock outtake -- that puzzled fans more than amused them. Later, the performers left the stage prior to an encore without saying good-bye, leaving the crowd to wonder what was going on for several seconds before the stage lights were lowered. And upon his return, Motte bungled a bit involving the fictional Make a Band's Wish Foundation by goading his drummer to stage-dive after he'd already done so. His confusion was understandable, however. Right before the main set's conclusion, he'd been laying on the stage with his head toward the audience when an over-excited attendee accidentally jammed the microphone into his mouth, leaving him both dazed and unexpectedly pissed off.

Despite these difficulties, however, the concert as a whole still worked pretty damn well. The stage debut of "Punk Bitch" jolted the mob every bit as much as "Electroshock" did, and "Holler
Til You Pass Out," "Choke Chain" and a blistering version of "Don't Trust Me" practically caused the theater to blast into the stratosphere. Granted, Boulder boosters were much more forgiving of the occasional rough moments than people in Ohio or New Jersey will be. But the Fox date proves 3OH!3's ambitions to become more than a regional phenom are more realistic than anyone might have guessed a year or two ago. -- Michael Roberts
- Westword

"Last Night ... The Pirate Signal, Digitata, Sims, and Mel Gibson and The Pants"

Better Than: watching reruns during the writer’s strike

One thing that’s guaranteed at a Pirate Signal show is passion. No matter how many people are in the crowd, no matter how they’re responding to the music, DJ A-What and Yonnas deliver a high-energy show that’ll leave you wondering how come more people don’t know about these cats?

That was the case last night at hi-dive where The Pirate Signal headlined a show that featured Digitata, Sims, and Mel Gibson and The Pants (pictured above), groups who drove in from Minnesota. The crowd was sparse for most of the evening, but people started trickling in as The Pirate Signal’s set time drew near. Yonnas and A-What took the stage shortly after 10 p.m. and launched into a new song called “Violence,� a story about a troubled youth who experienced sexual abuse at a young age, then got involved in drugs, and then went on to rape a woman himself before getting killed by police. It’s a nice way to open the show, right? But as Yonnas affirmed, “That’s the kind of sh*t I write about, it’s f**ked up right?� And that’s why the duo is garnering a small, but dedicated following.

The group then shared a couple of tracks from their upcoming mixtape -- a reworking of J Dilla and Guilty Simpson’s James Brown-inspired “Man’s World,� which Yonnas dedicated to his father (who was also in the house) and its own take on M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.� They did a couple more new songs, the day job employee’s anthem “Prostitute� and the story-driven “Zeiko,� which should cause even more anticipation for its next. The duo then dipped into more familiar tracks from last year’s self-titled EP like “Go!,� “Get Dirty,� and “I Can’t Wait,� which are quickly becoming Colorado hip-hop classics.

Ending the night, The Pirate Signal introduced more new songs with the Black militant styling of “Black Godz� and a verse from “Everyone in Babylon is a Racist,� where Yonnas tried, unsuccessfully, to perform the song three times but forgot the lyrics mid-way through. But hey, it was a new song, performed for the first time, and the piano-driven beat had heads bobbing all three times. Be on the lookout for The Pirate Signal when they open for the RZA next week in Boulder and in Denver. - Westword

"Moovers and Shakers 2006"

The Pirate Signal, The Pirate Signal (Self-released). The Pirate Signal unexpectedly blew the doors off the local scene this year with its tremendous self-titled EP. Working double time as producer and MC, Yonnas's hunger shows throughout the project, and you can't help but respect his hustle. The upcoming album is expected to be off the chains. -- Salazar-Moreno - Westword

"Moovers and Shakers 2008"

The Pirate Signal, Of Gods and Gangsters (Self-released). It's been a couple of years since the Pirate Signal dropped its self-titled EP, but to hold fans over for the next year, the crew dropped this excellent mixtape. Mixed entirely by DJ AWHAT, Of Gods and Gangsters finds Yonnas spitting fire over original beats and remixes hits by 50 Cent, Kanye and M.I.A. — Salazar-Moreno - Westword

"Over the Weekend...F.O.E. and Jewell Tyme with The Pirate Signal, Makk Beez, A-Co, Julox, et. al. & The Snake Pit"

Better Than: Watching the Nuggets get beat down.

After just a handful of releases in 2007, Denver hip-hop label Jewell Tyme Music (JTM) is looking at a big 2008 and kicked it off this weekend with the release party of F.O.E.’s mixtape comp, King of the Mountain, at the Snake Pit.

The night was hosted by Jewell Tyme CEO 800 the Jewell and kicked off with short sets from Makk Beez and ACO (abbreviation for Aurora, Colorado), who both delivered decent sets performing songs from upcoming JTM releases. The backing music, however, sounded muffled throughout their sets thanks to a shoddy PA, which made it difficult to decipher what was being said.

After a single-song performance by DJ, which sounded better equipment-wise than the previous performances, the Pirate Signal took the stage. The set consisted of totally new material from the group's upcoming mixtape, The PS Pt. II: Of Gods and Gangsters Vol. 1, including the pounding “Grinding� and “No One Seems to Care.� In the middle of the group's set, the music and mikes shut down, prompting Yonnas to finish a song without a mike, rapping at the top of his lungs. Once the sound was back up and running, the crew finished their set with a rousing performance of an untitled track from their mixtape.

F.O.E. took the stage around 12:15am and kicked off his set with charismatic performances of “F.O.E.,� “Why I Do� and “The Box,� which are slowly becoming Denver hood classics. His stage presence pretty much showcases why he has a loyal fan following, it’s hard not to be hooked on his passion for the music. Joined by B Blacc and Derby, F.O.E. also went through a few songs from King of the Mountain as well as the song “Tic Toc,� a bonafied hit featuring Karma and Meezly from the upcoming Jewell Tyme comp, Music, Money, and Roundtables. Once the bulk of F.O.E.’s set was completed, he opened up the stage to feature other Jewell Tyme artists and affiliates, and the night turned into a Denver hip-hop showcase featuring T.E, S.O. and J Money, among others. Two artists that stood out were singer Allison Wright, who has a Mary J. Blige type of vibe, and veteran Aurora MC Julox, who continues to create innovative hip-hop with a distinctive voice. It feels like he’s ripe to catch national interest like Houston’s Slim Thug or Miami’s Rick Ross. He’s just a song or two away.

If the evening had any downside, it was the sound system. With the exception of The Pirate Signal, most of the artists performed over tracks with vocals for fear that the mike setup would not be up to par. Most of them made up for it by giving energetic performances and it was a decent night for hip-hop. - Westword

"The Pirate Signal The Pirate Signal (Axumite Recordings)"

On Pirate Signal's 2004 debut, Norma(l) Hugh Manchild's American Revolution(s), the band placed much of its focus on production and penning impressive lyrics, and not enough time working on its cadence and flow. Subsequently, the album made for a tough listen. On its latest self-titled effort, the crew has simplified things and injected more soul into its raps. The growth is most evident on tracks like "An Emergence of Black Heroes," featuring Dow Jones and D.O. the Fabulous Drifta. A riot-starter that takes sellout rappers head-on, the cut is one of the finest to come out of the scene in the past year. Elsewhere, Signal MC and producer Yonnas gets funky on the '70s blaxploitation-groove-inspired "You Will Get Dirty" and adds sing-song flow over the brass-punctuated strains of "I Can't Wait." With the exception of the rap-rock-inflected "All I Know IsÅ It Was an Accident," Pirate Signal is an outstanding piece of work. - Westword


The Norma(l) LP 2004
The Pirate Signal EP 2006
Of Gods and Gangsters Vol. 1 (Mixtape)2008

GO (Currently spinning on 101.5 and 93.3)
I Can't Wait (Currently receiving rotation on 93.3)



Formed as an underground tape movement in the Denver hip-hop scene, The Pirate Signal eventually became a band and a production team. Original members Yonnas and Joey KUVO along with now ex-member BDB joined forces as the first tape eventually became the conceptual behemoth that was their first album, affectionately referred to as The Norma(l) LP, though it was anything but. As BDB left to pursue solo passions, Yonnas and Joey met DJ A-What, who with his massive collection of amazing records and air-tight DJ skills brought the missing ingredient to what was already a potent stew. They quickly recorded their classic self-titled EP in 2006 and rose to local and national prominence being invited to do everything from tour with Kool Keith to open for the Wu-Tang Clan on their triumphant return to Colorado after a two-year absence.
After blowing away audiences and artists alike they were awarded best hip-hop in Colorado by local Village Voice Media Publication the Westword in 2007. Then in 2008, without putting out any new music and with Yonnas living in New York for the four months previous to the showcase they didn't even perform in, they won again in 2008. They impressed Def Jux recording artists Hangar 18 they were unable to make their slot on Warped Tour 2008, they personally invited The Pirate Signal to take their place. After bringing unprecedented sized crowds to the tiny Skull Candy tent all summer, they were then invited to tour with exploding pop phenomenon 30h!3 on their recent, completely sold-out myspace sponsored tour this past fall. Next slated to be the house band for a string of swag parties in a mansion somewhere in Park City, Utah for the Sundace film festival as well as working on their highly anticipated sophmore album, OneAlone, guessing who they will impress next is almost as fun as guessing how the album will sound.