Back in 2006, long before the Black Sheep began playing host to internationally known performers like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tech N9ne, and Cannibal Corpse, the venue's successes were of a considerably more modest nature.
"We did a bunch of 'versus' shows with mixed genres," says Black Sheep manager Chris Huffine. "They were real popular, and we want to bring them back."
In those first incarnations, showcase winners would be determined by the relative enthusiasm of the crowd's response. They would then move on to the next round, battling each other at a subsequent show.
If you weren't around for them, the spirit of those early competitions is about to be resurrected with Fight Night: Hip Hop vs Metal. The April 12 event will feature hip-hop emcees and hardcore headbangers squaring off onstage, kind of like the breakdancers in Beat Street or Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in Zoolander.
This month's showdown will include some of the best-known acts on the current local scene, plus a couple out-of-town ringers: Inelements will be taking on Bullhead*ded. Blighter will do battle with the Clydesdale Entertainment crew, which features Jeffe, Reflecshaun, Mike McCulloch, Frank Garcia and BranDen Scroggins. And Pueblo's Creep Status will go up against Springs-turned-Denver rappers the Famm, who get bonus points for naming their website focusonthefamm.com.
Bryan Ostrow, who plays in both Blighter and Night of the Living Shred, has fond memories of attending the original Black Sheep battles, back before he had his own bands going.
"I remember one of the early ones that was like punk versus metal with In Death We Rise and Three Round Burst," says the musician, who also books the Triple Nickel. "But this will be a battle show with no winners. Just straight battle sets — two bands on the stage doing a song at a time."
While Ostrow will be performing with the five-piece Blighter this time around, he also took part in a similar event with his more stripped-down but no less noisy duo. "It was a year or so ago, back when the D.I.Y. Event Center was still going," he says. "Night of the Living Shred battled Bullhead*ded, and it was a blast."
Between now and the main event, you can also catch a preview of the hip-hop talent this coming Saturday as the Speak Easy Vape Lounge celebrates its first anniversary. Che Bong from Bullhead*ded and Clydesdale's Garcia will be performing, along with Stoney Bertz, Teqnik G and some unannounced guests. Find more details at tinyurl.com/vapehop.
This weekend will also mark the return of Heavy Gravity, the hip-hop fusion band featuring guitarist Eric Blackmore, bassist Charlie Milo and turntablist DJ Gravity. The trio disappeared from the local music scene some two years ago — although Gravity and Milo did lay down a non-stop, hour-long groove during the hip-hop showcase at last year's Indy Music Awards. The reunion show will take place Friday at Suite 224, a three-story venue in downtown Pueblo. If you're looking for improvisation and inspiration, this should definitely be worth the trip.