by Jeff Milo
"Jessica Hernandez was just in here," says Mister (known, by day, as Bryan Lackner), "got some coffee to go. By the way, did I tell you we'd set up a show with her and the Deltas? At the Bakery Loft?"
Lackner, along with Brent Smith (known as Blaksmith when he performs with MC quartet Cold Men Young) forms Passalacqua. This collaboration started with a causal "let's see where this goes-"-mindset between the pair who'd recently reconnected after a decade apart, having met in their respective awkward junior-high adolescences spent up in Rochester.
Now, the mid-20-something writer/rappers find themselves pivoting between rising interest from both the hip/hop and indie-rock scene's alike, and Lackner can't help shrugging with a humble grin, seeing their debut EP (up on their bandcamp) garnering close to 500 additional plays just in the few days following their Dally set.
Even though it's a dirty word, Passalacqua started out as, essentially a "side-project" as both men were still keenly set on nurturing their primary rap pursuits. But as Mister (i.e., Lackner) had begun mingling with rock acts like Duende and Illy Mack and Cold Men Young (by extension--Smith) have started a musically rewarding collaboration with soul/jazz quintet House Phone, it seems inevitable, like the mixing air masses behind a storm, that augmented attention rains upon Passalacqua, one scene spills upon another... Thus, that it's not a side-project anymore and here they are opening for funk dynamo Will Sessions, already!
Maybe it's their weird, musically spilled-off-the-tongue moniker that sticks in people's brains? Maybe it's their songs (samples of 70's soul and 60's funk looped under subtly punchy beats and spacey-electro atmospherics)...
Or maybe it's their words - thoughtful, earnest poetry that transcends ballads about girls, guns, greed or cars and takes on a more memoir-ish vibe documenting the dedication needed when balancing one's passions against one's obligations, all of it swiftly delivered yet articulated bars display their refined ability for cadenced vocal delivery.
"I don't know what it is..." Lackner says, "but lately, it just feels like, we've really got something here..."
They've been writing for less than a year and only just passed into the double-digits for local appearances. Yet, in the last two weeks, Lackner says, their phone's been ringing much more frequently.
Now, their Autumn schedule is substantial - opening for gothic jazz/baroque songstress Hernandez at the Bakery Loft in Mexicantown on Friday (9/24) and then on the following Wednesday, they warm up the Old Miami's stage for Vockah Redu (Javocca Davis), a "Cru" of southern Bounce-rap music revivalists whom, fittingly, Passalacqua seem to match on at least one level - theatricality.
"We try to make it tough for anyone to go up after us," Lackner said, nodding to their characteristic homespun minimalist costumes, props and caution-to-the-wind on-stage energy. They're joined by DJ Erno The Inferno (Ernie Guerra of rock group Noman), as well as a revolving cast of back up singers for on-stage cameos. "It tends to deviate from what you would expect out of a normal hip/hop show."
After shows, people come to the pair with comments like: "I'm not really that into hip/hop, but that was unbelievable." Which, Lackner cocks an eyebrow, is a strange comment to take, adding that a few early inquisitors were thrown off to find out he wasn't Jewish, thinking that beard of his looks a bit Matisyahu-esque, perhaps?
Following their Old Miami gig, they'll be 20-some-odd miles north in Pontiac, opening the Pike Room (on 9/29) for Astronautalis, a Florida-bred MC (Charles Andrew Bothwell) who, much like Passalacqua, blends the sytle, energy and sensibilities of myriad genres from indie-rock, to blues, to funk, but rooted by the nuanced rhythmic manners of hip/hop.
Hopefully, Lackner stresses, they'll have their 2nd releaes, (ten new songs) up for download by the time they finish their set with Hernandez. If not, then expect to see it ready as soon as possible. From then on, Passalacqua are set to play YpsiFest in mid October, while Lackner has engaged in loose talks to work on some tracks with Phantasmagoria's Christopher Jarvis and, potentially, something with psyche/blues quartet Duende.
Smith, meanwhile, along with Cold Men Young, are only a few days away from unveiling their new single "Time Bomb," while also steadily wrapping up work on their forthcoming album.
Lackner, in turn, is re-revving his solo project, Mister, finishing up a "trilogy of EPs" (collaborating with three separate producers -Que-C, Devy, Figure) to be released within the next seven months (leading into next year's Blowout).
(Photo: Tony Katai)