I was at the Sasquatch! Festival in 2007 when the Beastie Boys co-headlined with Bjork. Sasquatch! promised we’d get hot Bjork action on Saturday night, with the Beastie Boys closing out the festivities on Sunday night. In the run-up to the festival, it was announced that the Beastie Boys would also be doing an “instrumental” set on the Saturday night as well. It was exciting news, but it was also news I was sceptical about: “So they’re just noodling around and doing free form jazz instrumentals? I think I’d rather just see them do their proper set on Sunday.” I always wanted to see the Beastie Boys, but I wanted the full-on Beastie Boys experience. I was tempted to check them out on Saturday, but ultimately determined I should wait.
So on Saturday night, I stuck around on the Gorge Amphitheatre’s grassy knoll (or Coors Light Viewing Hill or whatever) to hold a spot for me n’ m’festival pals to enjoy Arcade Fire and Bjork from. With me keeping guard of our spot (I hate guarding seats. It makes me a nervous uncomfortable mess.), my pals went to go check out the Beastie Boys Go Instrumental. My then girlfriend (TG) and I protected our festival real estate and watched Manu Chao enthral the audience/catch my active loathing rays. After about 40 minutes, my friends returned with mile-wide grins. The Beastie Boys instrumental set wasn’t a “dudes that just like to jam, man” set. It was a BEASTIE BOYS SHOW WITH GUITARS AND DRUMS AND HOLY SHIT WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME??? I sat watching Manu Chao (gah!) and warding off dudes from taking our seating rectangle when I could have watched the Beastie Boys, a band that I love in non-noodling formats, be fucking awesome in front of my face.
TG and I were relieved from our post and went to take a much needed Honey Bucket (the Pacific Northwest’s disgustingly named answer to Port-A-Potty) break. In line, I heard the opening riff to “Sabatoge” being played in the distance. Acting on pure instinct, I grabbed TG’s wrist and began running. I yanked so hard and ran so fast that I nearly tore her arm out of the socket. I wasn’t thinking, I just knew I had a chance to see the Beastie Boys play “Sabatoge”. It had turned out that my pals left early and missed 30 minutes of the Beasties tearing the fuck up out of the secondary stage. I went from hell to heaven in the course of one signature riff. All prayers were answered, mistakes erased and I got to experience the coolest surprise of my life.
I guess what I’m getting at is that the Beastie Boys are awesome. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that. There are loads of people more qualified to handle any and all forms of MCA memorial. This is more of a “Thanks MCA” memorial blurt.
My earliest exposure to the Beastie Boys was probably “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”, but that was more so because the song was inescapable. It was the sort of thing my Dad liked and would have on a running mixtape with whatever his own interpretation of the title was (my guess is that he labelled it “Busted!” on his Sony cassette liner sheet). I was too young to know the Beastie Boys from their Licence To Ill success.
The first Beastie Boys song I was enamoured by was “Skills to Pay the Bills”, a song that I had and treasured on my Keep It Slammin’: 1994 World Basketball Championship cassette. Like millions of geeky kids my age, discovering the Beastie Boys was a ridiculously important feat. Not only were the Beastie Boys cool, they were also impossibly geeky. Sure, MCA sounded awesome talking about how he’ll “steal your honey like I stole your bike”, but he sounded even cooler when he referenced comic books and athletes that were championed by nerds.
MCA had that lower gravelly voice, which made him come across a bit like a cool older brother. This sort of worked hand-in-hand with how Adam Yauch tackled all sorts of big projects (a film label, directing loads of music videos, loads of Tibetan freedom related initiatives). He was also the dude you’d probably pick out of the Beastie Boys when you played with non-NBA players in NBA Jam.
When I watched the Beastie Boys do their “proper” show on that Sunday night, I was blown away. Everybody in the crowd was, including the guy that dressed up like Bender from Futurama (robot head and all). The Beastie Boys were an act that the crowd recognized as important. It’d be like catching the Pope at the height of his Poping and if he didn’t tour that much. The Beastie Boys were awesome. MCA was awesome. Let me change the way I phrased that. The Beastie Boys are awesome. MCA will always be awesome. We’ll miss you Yauch.
Full Disclosure: My favourite MCA verse is his closing bit from “Intergalactic”:
If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked
I’ll stir fry you in my wok
Your knees’ll start shaking and your fingers pop
Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock
It’s an obvious pick but I’m comfortable with that.