Here’s a lead I never could’ve guessed I’d write: Did an impromptu White Castle run by a mini-burger-seeking dwarf set back last night’s Geto Boys concert at the Fine Line by 90 minutes?
That was the unofficial word from a reliable source. Bushwick Bill reportedly went missing before showtime seeking out a meal at the Midwest fast food chain, which isn’t anywhere to be found in the group’s native state of Texas. Bill’s Boys didn’t go on until after midnight, which might seem OK for a current Top 40 hip-hop act but came off as an insult to Sunday’s mostly middle-aged, blue-collar, three-quarters-full crowd, which had to wait two hours after Haphduzn’s second of two local opening sets. Fans even turned to booing several times during the wait, prompting Bill to come out and apologize and ask them to wait patiently. But another 45 minutes went by before they finally came on. Hey, those sliders do take a while to digest properly.
True or not, the White Castle story wasn’t even the most offensive or oddest thing about the show. On their first full-fledged tour in two decades, the Houston trio – Bill, Willie D and Scarface – didn’t bother softening the harsh, violent tone of their gangsta-rap-pioneering late-‘80s/early-‘90s tracks. Willie’s homophobic F-word in “Point of No Return” uncomfortably stood out (never mind that it was used while accusing J. Edgar Hoover of killing Kennedy). And no matter how much the fellas tried to talk nice to the few ladies in attendance, there was no getting around the sexist/misogynistic attack lines in “Pussy Song” and “Bald-Headed Hoes.”
But hearing those old tracks did have a certain time/place historical value, and there was a more justifiable harshness in other oldies such as "Get Boys and Girls," reflective of Reagan-era economics.
As for the show's odd parts, things turned goofy right away at the start of the set after Bill performed the horror-movie anthem “Chuckie” and then proceeded to collapse on stage. He laid there for over a minute as his bandmates called for paramedics. It was all just a put-on, though, ha ha -- as if Bill is a bastion of healthy living and we’d never really believe he’d fall over dead while performing. Later in the show, it was similarly hard to tell whether or not Scarface was also trying to be funny when he substituted “Converse” for “Nikes” in “Read These Nikes,” saying the Chuck Taylor makers gave him an endorsement deal. Perhaps strangest of all, Scarface brought out an acoustic guitar a quarter of the way into the set and proceeded to pluck out Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” on it -- decently played, but not the most natural segue following “Mind of a Lunatic,” “Do It Like a G.O.” and “Gangsta of Love.”
When they were playing it straight, the Boys were straight-up electrifying, enough to make the hassle of the show well worth it. All three MCs have maintained their delivery power, with Scarface especially coming off strong in “Geto Boys and Girls,” while Bill’s performance of “Size Ain’t Sh**” was downright unforgettable.
They were really hitting their stride when -- 40 minutes in -- they wheeled out “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” followed by “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me,” clearly the 1-2 finish. Their set wasn’t even half as long as the delay beforehand. Worse, they blunted the full impact of “Feels Good…” by asking the crowd to pose for their Instagram feeds at song’s end. How gangsta is that?! It did, however, serve as a reminder to keep an eye out for a White Castle photo on Bill’s account.