thephoto by Bridget McQuillan
on-air intro by Chance Solem-Pfeifer
The last two months have been good to Lincoln’s AZP.
Let’s begin on the night of March 15th between the hours of 1 and 2 a.m., when AZP not only secured the closing slot of the SXSW music festival, but talked the manager of the Austin bar, The Rooftop, into giving them the full hour when the previous band didn’t show.
What ensued for the hip-hop/rock band was a tell-your-grandkids-type performance for the Lincoln five-piece. Above the swirling human tides of 6th Street, they played for hundreds of bodies, winning them over so profusely that by last call, they didn’t have to ask the group of 98 percent strangers to chant the three syllables of A-Z-P. It just happened.
Of the night in question, I wrote on HearNebraska.org:
“Lyrically, Zachary Watkins and Ishma Valenti thrive on battle lines: good and evil, light and dark, empowerment vs. exploitation, being duped by the system vs. spiritual clarity. It was fitting then that they inked a line of demarcation between themselves and the mobs of other hip-hop artists crowding 6th Street all week desperately trying to give away or sell CDs, rapping unsolicited at passersby.
The result was a wasteland of home-packaged CDs trampled to smithereens on 6th Street.
So Valenti picked the opportune moment to draw a line in the sand. After working the crowd into a frenzy with the frighteningly fast rap wind-up of “Black Jesus,” Valenti grabbed a stack of CDs from the back of the stage to pass out.
“I better not see even one of these on the ground out there…” People roared.
Parlay that monumental night into the recent announcement that AZP will play Bubble Music Festival in Madison, Wis., on September 12. And in a pairing of substantial local draws, on May 10, AZP will perform at a Duffy’s Tavern backlot show that marks the return of Universe Contest to Lincoln. And there’s another bit of symmetry there. As Universe Contest returns from its first national adventures, the months of May and June will see AZP preparing to head out on their own.
On Friday, AZP had the launch show for a new Kickstarter to fund their 23-city tour, slated for the start of July. They’re calling it “The Geo Tour,” certainly the first time the band has toured in the quantity and intensity. You can donate here. But it’s hardly the first time the central founders of AZP, Ishma Valenti and Zachary Watkins, have provided evidence that they believe — down to their moral, physical, spiritual fiber — that what they’re doing is worth while.
Their EP of last summer, entitled Early Sunday Morning, came packaged with an enormous, evocative and colorful rendering of Black Jesus. It was an EP that touted not only the grandeur of Watkins and Valenti’s — and this their favorite word of choice — “vision,” but showcased them working together in a way that partially nullified the idea of back and forth between a composer and a rapper. On it, they work out a devotionally unifying tone.
And so once again, you can see them at Duffy’s on May 10 for a backlot show, but right now I’m very pleased to be joined in the studio for an acoustic performance by Ishma Valenti and Zach Watkins. Gentlemen, take it away. (Listen to the full show below.)