- SHOWCASE WINNER: 607 with Mr. Morbid in the background.
On his way to the Rev Room for the finals of the Musicians Showcase, 607 spun his car into a retaining wall on I-630. Neither he nor his brother, fellow rapper Mr. Morbid, was hurt; his car is probably totaled. After dealing with the wreck and recruiting his dad to ride him downtown, 607 arrived at Revolution minutes before he was set to go onstage.
Whether he overcame or built off the adrenaline shock of the accident, 607 summoned an inspired, kinetic set that led to an impressive and, as the first rap act to prevail, historic win in the 2008 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.
In retrospect this should've been obvious: 607 came into the finals with a distinct advantage over the other three hugely talented acts — experience. In less than a decade, the rapper's released 29 albums and performed thousands of shows. You'd be hard pressed to name a stage in Central Arkansas on which he hasn't performed or a local act with a broader fan base. In the end, that fan base secured the victory for the rapper. On the judges' scorecards, the four acts were neck and neck, but in the audience vote, which in the finals was equivalent to the vote of one judge, 607 won resoundingly.
The weather didn't appear to be a deterrent. Close to 300 people packed Revolution. All acts brought fans, but just from surveying the dance floor, it was often impossible to pick out who was rooting for whom. Everyone got down all the time.
Not for no reason. All the acts improved on the sets they played to win in the semifinals. In the opening slot, the interplay between rapper Epiphany and vocalist Gina Gee was as bright and charismatic as ever. In a guest appearance, Rodney Block, the renowned local trumpeter, gave the hook of “Can't Tell” extra punch.
Hot Springs' Brian Martin and the Circulators gave us more of that infectious, blues-folk swing in the second spot. Their finals set felt somewhat subdued (compared to their semifinal show and the other performers' sets), though no less impressive. Their closing song, “Bigboned and Butt-ugly,” was an awesomely meandering, hilarious anthem that had the Spa City faithful singing along.
In the last spot, Kyoto Boom continued to demonstrate why it's the most impressive new band Little Rock's seen in years. The band's crystalline post-punk was rousing, precise and huge. Lead singer Scott Cook poured himself into his lyrics.
But where those acts debuted new wrinkles, 607 unveiled an entirely new set. If the rapper's first Showcase set was about showmanship — wearing a drama mask, rapping a “palingraph” (a long rhyme that made sense forward and backward) and singing over a Britney sample — his finals set stripped all the gimmicks away. With just a mic, a collection of strangely infectious, skittering beats (most homemade) and hype-man help from his brother, 607 tore through the most dynamic songs in his huge catalog. His performance was unrelenting, even when the music stopped and he went into a rapid-fire improvisation. 607 planned a pyrotechnic finale with the crowd lighting sparklers on cue, but his time ran out. No matter. “Persiphone,” the song he planned to use as his penultimate number, might be the most epic track you'll heard all year. Propelled by martial drums that thunder in and out like lulls in a battle and adorned by swirling atmospherics, 607 fills the nearly 8-minute track with so much free-associated information and verbal dexterity that I got chills. The sparklers were a perfect coda.
For the victory, 607 wins a main-stage slot on Riverfest, recording time from Blue Chair Studio, clothes from Hip Sway in Conway, a $100 gift certificate to Trio's, a $300 gift certificate to Jacksonville Guitar Center and a photo shoot with the Times' own Brian Chilson. Thanks to those sponsors plus “The Point” 94.1 and KABF 88.3 for helping promote and Lucky Dog Audio for duplicating our Showcase CDs. And a huge thank you to Chris King and Suzon Awbrey at Sticky Fingerz/Revolution and Maestro and Timmy for making everything sound so good. And a double huge thank you to our four all-time judges, Davis Clement, Indy Grotto, Ben Jones and Razormack.com, and our six special guest judges, Zach Holland, Belvis the Black Elvis, Will Boyd, Jana DeGeorge, Jim Harris and Michael Marion. Also, to Cameron Holifield for his math prowess.
I fell for 607 and Mr. Morbid hook, line and sinker. From the pre-show rumors of a car wreck to the obnoxious crowd member who shouted something offensive and was musically berated by 607 to the sparklers at the end of the set, this was rock 'n' roll at its finest. 607 showed that music encompasses all genres and that he is a force to be reckoned with.
607 is a true success story. He's following his dreams and one of the few [local rappers] who live off of their trade.
To have a performer of [607's] caliber in Little Rock is truly a pleasure. He is one of Arkansas's greatest and most consistent acts, and he really deserved to win the Showcase. 607 and Mr. Morbid are a winning team, and I hope to be seeing a lot of performances from them in the future.
It would be easy to say the showcase was just an extended coronation ceremony for 607. He is one of the most consistently brilliant artists in town. The three other bands in the finals were, I thought, quite formidable. 607 pushes the envelope always, though, and his set Friday night was as diverse and on-point as I've ever seen him.
Jim Harris guest judge
Having seen nine of these finals in a row, the depth of talent in this one was second to none. All amazing acts that should be able to “go places.” What I've learned over these years is that while songwriting and musical talent are significant, to say the least, it ultimately boils down to the performance, and 607 was dynamic, his show unforgettable.