As a publication which mainly covers large festivals all over the world or smaller venues in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, some of the venues in the rest of the country can get overlooked by Your EDM. Likewise, many music fans have heard of the legendary Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach California, about 20 miles north of San Diego, but are not aware that the venue is a destination spot for many electronic and hip hip acts. Largely classed as a rock venue (by its own admission), the Belly Up has been right on the beach in Solana since 1972 but they don’t just have rock concerts. Almost every Friday they have live DJs for the Atomic Groove Happy Hour, but more importantly they host some of the coolest hip hop, EDM and crossover acts in the world.
One of the biggest shows which the Belly Up sees every year is the legendary trip hop group, Thievery Corporation. So well-attended is Thievery Corporation at the Belly Up, in fact, that the venue is usually the only stop on Thievery Corp’s tour where two shows are scheduled. This year, as is also typical, both shows sold out within a few days of the show’s being announced.
For EDM fans who are not familiar with Thievery Corporation, this pre-EDM electronic trip hop group essentially wrote the soundtrack of all the cool movies in the early-to-mid 00s. The likes of Garden State, Snatch and Vanilla Sky. More recently they were featured in The Vampire Diaries and Better Call Saul just last year. They have performed at Coachella numerous times and were featured in a documentary about the festival. Aside from that, numerous EDM DJs and producers name them as an influence and sample them in sets and songs. The trip hop collective is woven so deeply into the fabric of EDM that even if you don’t know them, you know them.
Standing room only was an understatement at the late show at the Belly Up on October 26, as the small but high-capacity venue was packed to the gills (those who have been there will get the the shark pun here). In general it’s seen by SoCal Thievery Corp fans as better to go to the late show rather than the early show because the sets are always guaranteed to be massive. The Belly Up stays open later than usual for this show, and in this case the band packed in an 18-song set and two encores; over three hours. The performances are unique because, as Thievery Corp are electronic by nature, they still have a lot of analog instruments in their music so the sets are usually done mostly live, with drums, guitars, a string bass, vocalists and horns. There are also synth players, drum machines and DJs, however, to the whole spectacle mean it was close quarters onstage at the Belly Up as well.
Thievery Corporation basically has nothing but classic songs at this point as they’re so recognizable in pop culture but they definitely hit all the most popular tracks, though they did make the audience wait until the end of the first encore until they played their most recognizable song, “Lebanese Blonde”. Since Thievery Corp are so chill by nature with their music, the generally muted crowd erupted into cheers when this track went on, and the whole venue was singing along with the track. Other well-known tracks were “Le Monde,” “Hare Krishna,” “Until the Morning,” and “Ghetto Matrix” featuring rapper Mr. Lif. Since San Diego is a reggae town, there were also a number of the group’s more dub influenced tracks like “True Sons of Zion,” “Letter to the Editor,” and another super-popular track “Drop Your Guns.”
Thievery Corporation generally has a style which straddles dub and funk with trip hop at its base, so that may be why reggae-forward San Diego relishes when the group comes to town. Since they generally skip over Los Angeles, however, it’s likely that there were quite a few fans from other cities at the two sold out October shows. Even though Thievery Corporation haven’t put out an album since 2010, fans still flock to their regular tours and this year’s San Diego showing certainly lived up to the hype.
Thievery Corporation will be criss-crossing the globe on tour for the next few months with only one stop in the U.S. in their native Washington DC, but it won’t be long before they come back stateside, and most likely the Belly Up again. Check out their website for specific tour dates and news, but more importantly check out the Belly Up’s calendar. The venue often surprises with the lineups they pull, especially with EDM acts so if you’re in LA or OC and think you may have missed your favorite producer or live EDM act, keep an eye out for this hidden secret venue.