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Epic Beard Men play the Paris Theater 4/20/2019 - Review

By C. FRANCIS O'LEARY // True to the name, a very bearded crowed, even for Portland standards, assembled for the Epic Beard Men show on April 20 at the Paris Theater in Portland. 

True to the name, a very bearded crowed, even for Portland standards, assembled for the Epic Beard Men show on April 20 at the Paris Theater in Portland. Consisting of indie-rappers B. Dolan and Sage Francis, and touring with DJ Zole and Vockah Redu, EBM is currently touring their recent album This Was Supposed To Be Fun on the Come to the Sand Dunes Tour.

Though TWSTBF is the Epic Beard Men’s first album, the two musicians have been performing together for 15 years. After meeting as part of the spoken word scene in Rhode Island in the early-aughts, Francis signed Dolan to his Strange Famous record label. Since then, the two have collaborated to some extent on almost every release each made in their solo careers. In 2013, the pair released the first song under the name Epic Beard Men. Since then, fans have eagerly awaited the release of a full album. Solo albums, touring and personal lives prevented a longer collaboration until 2016, when the pair traveled to Scotland to perform 20 shows during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. During their residency, the two began laying the ground work for an LP.

On March 29 of this year, the Epic Beard Men released TWSTBF. One reading of the title refers to working with a close friend and trusted confidant after years of solo work. Because the personal discography of each artist often deals with dark material and personal tragedy, an album made with a friend was an opportunity for lighter tracks. If you’re going to make an album together, make it a fun experience. Another reading, however, is less hopeful. Dolan says it’s an oblique reference to the empty promises of western civilization. We’re marketed fun as a commodity, but society is just one big Fyre Festival.

That having been said, the show was fun. Despite sound issues, including the house music continuing to play throughout the first few songs of the set, the EBM performed well, and the crowd was hyped. The pair’s years of performing together was evident as they covered each other’s lines while working on malfunctioning mics. Francis made a joke about not being a boy-band – the Epic Beard Men are a man-band – but the truth is, their maturity helped save a show that could have been crippled by technical difficulties.

Beyond technical problems, the show was tight. Between songs the performers would chat with the crowd to introduce the next song. Often their banter tied the preceding and following songs together in a way that made the experience of listening to songs spanning six years of releases feel like one long mixtape. The underground rappers fed off one another’s energy, reinforced each other’s punchlines, and ensured a show to remember.

Vockah Redu opened the show with a high energy performance. The performer augmented their prepared beats with an on-stage theremin. Towrd the end of Vockah’s performance, audience members were invited to the stage to participate in a twerk off. Among those who took part were Tricia Diamond and Kofi Kannan, members of the Seattle Twerkshop, who had seen the show the previous night and followed EBM and Vockah to PDX to catch them again.

Fans of EBM can stream or download the new album This Was Supposed To Be Fun on all streaming services. To keep up with the Epic Beard Men, follow the group at @EpicBeardMen or individually at @SageFrancis and @BDolanSFR.

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