My bucket list of artists to see live is short and last night I got the privilege to see one of favorite hip-hop groups perform for the first time.


I’ve been a fan of People Under The Stairs since I heard “Suite For Beaver Pt. 1” on Mark Farina’s “Mushroom Jazz 4″ mix.  I was immediately hooked by their golden-era sounding beats and back-and-forth wordplay but most importantly by the easy-going fun attitude of their music.  As time went on and hip-hop (I’m using that term lightly) became more about braggadocio and being a club commodity, PUTS maintained their commitment to quality boom-bap and having a good time.  I continued to follow their discography and was never disappointed.  Always evolving, their music never ceased to pay homage to its old-school roots and have an “educational” value to new younger audiences.  You’ll find a track from PUTS on every edition of my “You Gots To Grill” Summertime mix series as tradition.



I’d be surprised if I haven’t been to over 1,000 concerts in my lifetime.  I started when I was 11 and even though I’ve slowed down recently, there were times in my youth where I was going to 3-5 shows a week.  At this point I rarely stay for an entire show and I’m probably the harshest critic I know, especially for hip-hop.  The PUTS show last night at Hawthorne Theater was one of the most refreshing shows I’ve been to in years and maybe the best hip-hop show I’ve ever seen.  I stayed until the very end.


Walking on stage with local beers and a red solo cup in  their hands, it was immediately apparent that Thes One and Double K were there to party with the crowd.  Their levels of crowd interaction, showmanship presence and hype-men skills were the kind that can only be attained through countless gigs and a genuine desire to give back the love that they receive from fans.


In stark contrast to most boring, disorganized hip-hop stage shows, PUTS flipped the script for every song in their hour set in a manner too improvised to be rehearsed and too tight not to be the mark of veterans.  Some tracks showcased Double K on the cut while some had the duo backing each other up in classic Run-DMC fashion.  There were interludes of freestyle rhyming and song outros that turned into beatboxing transitions.  I especially lost my shit when Thes One strapped on a drum machine and started sequencing on the spot while Double K cut up “SGT. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  Their nod to their roots was seamless, subtle and unconscious to most but appreciated by the heads.



The most surprising part of the show was the commitment from the younger fans.  PUTS performing in Portland last year on the Mac Miller tour, which coupled with their unabashed love for the sticky green, definitely helped to cultivate a younger audience.  However, under 21 fans knowing words to songs from 2004 and before in that abundance blew me away.  PUTS spoke to the fans from the stage about their love for Portland and their appreciation of support in an authentic manner that I haven’t experienced in a show since my teens.  They shouted out local friends Rev Shines and the Lifesavas.  It was grass roots fan base expansion of the best kind.


After the show they hung at the merch table, talked to fans and signed not only purchased items but also posters stolen from the walls and whatever else the crowd could produce to get Sharpied.  They thanked me for my continued support and hit me off with a vinyl copy of their newest album, “Highlighter”.  I can’t wait to drop the needle on it this week.




The amount of PUTS on my iPod is ridiculous but here’s a tasty treat to get you started on your journey.  In the words of Thes at the show, “Nothing in this life matters if it isn’t fun.”