Toad’s Place is a legendary New Haven, Connecticut venue that stands right on campus at Yale University. The cavernous student bar has hosted acts like Kanye West and The Rolling Stones, and in 2018 it’s hosting a new crop of artists who are poised to blow up. WYBCx Yale Radio hosted their annual Ante-Fling–a showcase of their favorite up-and-coming acts in rotation on their station–at Toad’s Thursday night where the cream absolutely rose to the top.
There is no doubt that Myles Cameron’s alt-hip-hop affectations and Phat A$tronaut‘s infusive funky jams were well received inside the hallowed venue. But Phoenix-based hip-hop trio Injury Reserve and Washington D.C. indie rockers PRIESTS ruled the day with uproarious sets that sent the young crowd of mostly Yale students into an absolute frenzy.
Myles Cameron is from New York, but as a graduate of the prestigious school that was playing host to the event, he maintained a solid crowd. Those who knew his tunes were highly enthralled and entertained but as a first-timer to his music, I was not so swayed by the young MC. With a little more seasoning there is no reason why Cameron and his cohorts won’t be doing to crowds what Injury Reserve did Thursday night.
Next up were New Haven natives Phat A$tronaut and frankly, they were a formidable sonic force on stage. The rhythmic eight-piece soul, hip-hop, and funk fusion act could have easily stolen the show with their enticing bass lines and eruptive horn solos. They were a well-polished ensemble that knew how to highlight their strengths and more importantly, knew they needed to bring their A-game if they intended to put on a memorable set opening for the likes of the transcendently talented Injury Reserve and PRIESTS.
The A-game is exactly what they brought with smooth-talking lead singer Chad Browne-Springer guiding his group through the grooves with the stalwart backing of the group’s musical director and guitarist Mark Lyon’s and a stellar performance on drums by the mask-wearing Travis Hall. Phat A$tronaut are dropping their new record on April 13, and with the caliber of live performance they are delivering, there is no doubt it’s going to be a banger.
Injury Reserve exploded onto the stage next and wasted no time diving head first into their raucous set. Parker Corey, Ritchie with a T, and Stepa J Groggs whipped the crowd of several hundred into a state of hysteria and kept them there the rest of the night playing banger after banger off mostly their two most recent releases Floss and Drive It Like It’s Stolen. One of the fans in attendance, Drew Moran, is so enamored by the upstart hip-hop outfit that he got the word “FLOSS” tattooed on his left wrist in honor of their 2016 LP.
It only took a few seconds of their first track to incite the crowd into a mosh pit. Ritchie With A T, seduced by the energy of the slam dancers, jumped right off the stage to join in the fracas. That enthusiasm to engage with their audience is a big part of what’s propelling Injury Reserve to the top of the game. On record, they are a sometimes aggressive but most often you can expect a velvety alt hip-hop squad dropping well thought-out tracks, but in-person they are the intersection of where hip-hop beats crossover with punk rock sensibility.
Injury Reserve has kept a steady pace climbing straight up the proverbial mountain that is the national hip-hop conversation. They have consistently released substantive and well-produced music that goes hand-in-hand with their high concept music videos–always equal parts intelligent and eye-catching. Put those factors together with fortuitous opening tour slots and their own highly acclaimed sold out “Arena Tour”, and Injury Reserve will be an unstoppable tour de force by the time they hit the stage at Miami’s Rolling Loud this summer.
Once Injury Reserve was done dropping the crowd’s jaw, it was PRIESTS turn to pick those jaws back up off the floor for a powerful set. Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer was in rare form and looking to impress a crowd that was so visually blown away by Injury Reserve. If Phat A$stronaut needed their A-game to proceed Injury Reserve, PRIESTS needed their A++-game and delivered in every way.
Greer gave an impassioned performance for the Ivy League crowd, let the wild and wooly college kids know she appreciated their enthusiasm. But as much as the voice of PRIESTS kept the crowd engaged, it was guitarist G.L. Jaguar who really made the show. On April 5, 2018, Keith Richards was the coolest guitarist to ever play Toad’s, but by April 6 it was Jaguar. It’s hard to know if it was the elated crowd, the mythic venue, the stellar opener, the open-bar between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., or all of the above but something lit a fire under Jaguar and he brought it onstage with him and shared it with the house.