All the Teenagers in Northern Virginia Love Atmosphere

I've never felt as old at a concert as I did at the 9:30 Club Saturday night.

I've found myself checking out up-and-coming underground bands and feeling closer to the few grays than the actual demo -- want to reach out to the solo ones, buy 'em a beer and ask 'em what my life is gonna be like in 15 years -- but at an underground (suburban) hip-hop show, I am the infirm.

My buddy Bano warned me about what he saw getting off the Metro, but I wasn't prepared for all the younguns lined up outside the club 10 minutes before doors as we breezed by asking for tickets. Thanks to the helpful kid in line who pointed out that the show was sold out.

We got in later, about halfway through Brother Ali's set. It's not tough to find a ticket outside the 9:30 Club.

And it was well worth the effort. Brother Ali was brilliant. He's gifted with an incredible voice for hip-hop. There's soul and gospel in there. He raps like a preacher, the Rev. Brother Ali. And his rapid-fire rhyming was top notch. He can spit faster than most. Like, 99th percentile. (For the Virginia kids taking standardized tests.)

Atmosphere was even better, though. Slug simply commands the crowd. They listen when he speaks and do as he tells them. Late in the set he called out a girl in the crowd -- "You're a beautiful woman, but shut the f*** up!" -- and she ate it up. They expect this from Slug and give it back. With their brontosauruses up in the air, there was always a middle finger extended at the end, like a dinosaur's tongue. Which kinda dulls Slug's effect.

But who can argue with the band? No hype boys. Just Slug rhyming, Ant spinning (the rhythm section), a pianist and a guitarist. Piano so cool Spike Lee should consider it, and guitar that ably put songs on its back when called upon.

Great show. These kids SHOULD be coming by the thousand to see these guys. Both Brother Ali and Atmosphere deserve bigger attention, and that starts after school lets out.

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