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Cooler Than You

I'd been shown some of Mike Posner's stuff via his MySpace page by friends anxiously awaiting my opinion. (Some people mistake me for an authority on music, what with me being in a band and writing for recess and being so cool and all.)

To be honest, I don't listen to a lot of hip hop, and therefore have severely embarrassing and unrefined tastes in the genre, leading me to adore guilty pleasures like "Soulja Boy," "Paper Planes" and "Hey Ya!" So my response was aimed at staying on the fence, not wanting to soil my reputation on a claim I couldn't actually defend.

"Yeah, it's OK I guess."

I was then hit with what could be taken as a counter argument to my blase stance: "He's been working with Kanye." (I've since heard everything short of them being blood relatives.) "That's cool and all," I thought, "but regardless I didn't really dig his MySpace songs." I did however recognize that he was not a typical Duke musician, if there is such an animal. (After all, he is in SigNu.)

Partially due to this curiosity, I was excited to share a bill with Posner and the Brain Trust for what was tagged as "The Best of Duke Music" last Thursday night at the Broad Street Cafe.

Despite any mental preparation I had taken, Posner, wearing a plain t-shirt, gray sweat pants, buzz cut and horn-rimmed glassed, didn't look like an MC to me. But I could see he was serious about putting on a great show tonight. Meditative and methodical with his setup and preparation, he was still quick to smile, reflecting an ideal pre-show mentality. The rest of his band consisted of a DJ, a guitarist and Running Lights veteran Eric Holljes on piano and vocals.

A few days before the show, Posner had made it known to us, the other bands, that he was bringing a lot of people. I had my doubts, but I was excited by the prospect. It's always fun to play to a bigger crowd. Sure enough, about a quarter of the way through our set, some 200-250 people were crowding the cafe from wall to wall. And it was clear that Posner was indeed who they had come to see. Coming through on his boastful claim was only the first sign of his connection and true understanding of his audience.

Standing on the bench along the wall, crammed between two beautiful Greek couples, I watched as Posner conducted a SigNu section party with his bouncing left hand, spreading the good word of designer shades and hot drug dealers. I noticed a good number of the audience was wearing black Brain Trust t-shirts, which either actually bragged or admitted the callousness with tongue in cheek of his hit "Cooler than You." I couldn't help but thinking that indeed, the two blondes dancing on the tables were maybe a little cooler than me.

These people knew the words and weren't afraid to sing along with a beer in one hand and the other gently placed on the hip of a main squeeze. Maybe these bros didn't know our cover of the Wombats or how awesome the new TV on the Radio album sounds on vinyl, but they were sure having fun. Posner was clearly in his element, with an exuberant expression that had just the right mix of joy and awe at his audience's involvement. This was what a gig was supposed to look like.

And like the Grinch's heart-growing revelation, my last bit of smug indieness that pretended to be too refined for this music was washed away and I couldn't stop myself from smiling at these people and their good time. After all, that's what music's all about, isn't it?

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