Photography by Eric Tra
As the house lights faded and Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited” began playing over the speakers, the masses in the Moore Theater leapt from their chairs. Before the band even appeared on stage, people were ready to dance; people were ready to celebrate. So once Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler appeared on the stage with his infectious grin, quickly followed by fellow MCs Ladybug Mecca and Doodlebug, there was a constant stream of applause. Digable Planets had finally returned.
A proper reunion for the group has been a long time coming. The group’s second and final album, Blowout Comb, was released in 1994. The last time the three toured together was in 2005, with Butler and Doodlebug taking the songs on the road sans Ladybug between 2009 and 2011. They were supposed to reunite in 2012 with a performance in Butler’s hometown of Seattle but cancelled last minute. These were a lot of ups and downs for fans to deal with, but they were all worth it for the band to get it right last night. Backed with a live band, the band was in full form.
Butler has been a major presence in Seattle’s hip-hop scene with his role in the transcendent Shabazz Palaces. But seeing him with his old comrades revealed a different side of him that Seattleites have been missing. Typically, during a Shabazz show, Butler wears his trademark shades and dresses in dark clothing. He feels mystical, not existing within our spectrum of reality. Yet with Digable Planets, he’s a jovial frontman offering up praise and laughter anytime he’s not spitting on the mic. But it wasn’t just his charisma that made the performance so joyful; it was the interplay between him and his cohorts. There was a seamlessness as they hopped in on each other’s verses. Their beatnik flows were fluid in nature, moving with the freeness of their jazz influences.
Ladybug got some of the best reactions of the night whenever she hopped on the mic. Words cooly slipped out of her mouth, capturing the full gravitas of Brooklyn bravado. From her first verse on “The May 4th Movement”, she had the room rapt with her laid-back demeanor and lyrical dexterity. Doodlebug added a sense of levity to the group, much like on the records. His presence balanced the spaciness of Butler and Ladybug’s otherworldly flow while still sounding effervescent himself.
It was hard to tell who was having more fun: the band or the audience. Once people got out of their seats in the introduction, they never sat back down. Masses ended up running to the front pit to dance to their favorite cut. As Butler announced that they’d have to wrap it up to keep within curfew, there was audible frustration and disappointment. This was the night people had been holding out for, and it exceeded every expectation. Then the walking bass line to the band’s hit “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” kicked in, and it was all smiles and head bobs.
Slowes’ Comb/The May 4th Movement starring Doodlebug
It’s Good to Be Here
Pacifics (NY Is Red Hot)
What Cool Breezes Do
The Art of Easing
Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)