Review / photos: Machine Gun Kelly, Tech N9ne close out the Hawaiian Village at Tampa's Stadium Green Iguana
The clock has been ticking on the venue since Monday, when it was announced the Green Iguana would be bulldozed following Wednesday’s concert to make way for yet another car dealership on Dale Mabry Highway. Forget Tropical Storm Debby; an audience of Juggalos, Technicians and PowerRagers could be just as destructive.
Tech N9ne’s nightmarish hip-hop seemed a fitting way to say goodbye. It made sense that opening act ¡Mayday! spent parts of their set referencing the apocalypse. And it came as no surprise whatsoever that Machine Gun Kelly pretty much tried to incite a riot, attempting to smash out windows and telling the crowd: “This is the last night this venue will be standing. F--- this place up.”
Not that the Hawaiian Village needed a ton of help in that regard. The idea of a big, outdoor rock club in Tampa makes a lot of sense, but there’s only so much you can do with a converted Days Inn courtyard, even when you truck in thousands of dollars of sand. It still looks like the sort of place Jesse Pinkman might go on spring break.
And yet for two years, the place had a pretty good run, hosting concerts by the likes of Rise Against, Korn and Anthrax, along with very successful DayGlow parties and DJ sets by Paul Oakenfold and Pauly D. It seemed to be working ... until, one day, it didn't.
Although Wednesday’s Hostile Takeover Tour was headlined by Tech N9ne and designed as a showcase for the outsider-art rappers on his Strange Music label, the most interesting name on the bill was Bad Boy/Interscope’s Machine Gun Kelly, a.k.a. MGK, a.k.a. Richard Baker, who’s had himself quite the year in Tampa Bay.
First there was that incident in St. Petersburg in January, in which the Cleveland rapper got into an alleged bar brawl and was later sued by a bouncer. Then came his performance at Wild Splash, where he stole the show by climbing atop the scaffolding in front of thousands of fans. And next month, he’ll return to St. Pete for the Vans Warped Tour.
At this point, MGK may think he needs to top himself every time he comes to town. Rail-thin, sinewy and tagged with tats all over, the rapper announced to the crowd: “I don’t give a f--- if we are in an abandoned hotel room … We will give these goddamn motherf---ers what they want.”
For a guy whose boss is Sean “Diddy” Combs, he borrows heavily from the old-school-punk playbook, thrashing and headbanging his way through I Know and clutching a mic stand like Iggy Pop on See My Tears. It’s an aesthetic that plays to his strengths – intense delivery, stage daredevilry, even a bit of humility.
But he also showed a lighter, more boisterous side. He joked with a heckler, thoughtfully gave “a shout-out to the hurricane that didn’t hit us today,” and admitted that before the show, he took a leak behind one of the palm trees in the courtyard. (Why not, right?) And he didn’t stop there.
Midway through the set, he brought five women onstage, practically announcing his intention to sex them all up right then and there (what else would you expect from a guy whose Twitter bio almost begins with, “I like threesomes”?). Then he stripped down to his underpants for a cover of Blink-182’s What’s My Age Again?, during which he played air guitar using both a cymbal stand and one of the women.
After diving into the crowd during his anthem Wild Boy, he decided he still hadn’t given them enough. Re-emphasizing that the venue was about to close, he ominously demanded “something hard” be passed his way. Then he got the idea to roam offstage and up to the hotel’s second-floor balcony, at which point he grabbed a metal panel and smashed it against a window … which thankfully remained intact. No matter. “Break everything you see, motherf---er!” MGK yelled at the crowd. “Break it all! F--- this place!” Then he returned to the stage and once again scaled the 25-foot scaffolding, dangling upside down for his final song.
After a tour de force like that, Tech N9ne’s headlining performance could only come as a bit of a letdown, though certainly not for a lack of talent. The veteran Kansas City MC is one of independent rap’s true superstars, and one of its most gifted lyricists, period. The man’s endlessly multisyllabic rhymes, delivered with verve and creative flair, are in a class with Eminem’s. Slacker, Midwest Choppers and Welcome to the Midwest were jaw-dropping displays of breathless dexterity.
Too bad too many of Tech’s jams rely on spooky horrorcore gimmicks. (The retro-’90s bounce of Bout ta’ Bubble was a delightful exception.) He’s a friend of Insane Clown Posse – he spent the whole show in a white facepaint mask – and too many of the tracks he performed with cohort Krizz Kaliko (above right) on Wednesday relied on creepy samples (cue the Halloween theme on Psycho Bitch) and creaky music-box effects. Tech deserves all the credit in the world for doing it his own way, but man, if the guy ever just decided to take a break from his weird little world and write singles for the hip-hop mainstream, you wonder how far he’d go. Maybe we should all take up a collection to get him to record with Dr. Luke. (Just kidding, Technicians. But maybe Rick Rubin?)
At the end of the night, there was no rioting, nor was there much nostalgia over the Hawaiian Village’s demise. There were fights in the moshpit, calls for girls to bare their chests, lots of drinking and smoking and dancing, even a couple of PG-13 skinny-dips in the courtyard pool – but no hand-wringing or fond reminiscing. It was a concert. Nothing more.
As a guy overheard outside the venue afterward put it: “I spent $30 to see Machine Gun Kelly try to smash a window, and he was too weak to do it.”
That about sums up the Hawaiian Village in a nutshell: Full of potential, but ultimately anticlimactic.
And still, in a strange way, worth remembering.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photos: Luis Santana, tbt*