The Cool Kids bring ‘Night School’ live show to Thalia Hall

Don’t call it a comeback.

After one pandemic, one triple album and a myriad personal pursuits, beloved hip hop duo The Cool Kids call their new live show an evolution, the “next stage” of their brand. The event — named “Night School” — will include a live podcast recording, food tasting, and a series of performances from the group and their friends. But bringing it all together took a bit of time.

It all goes back to their latest album, which came out in March. Described as a triple album, the record features one solo record from Antoine “Sir Michael Rocks” Reed and one from Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersoll, plus a joint record featuring the duo. Work on the album began in late 2020 and went into 2021, during the peak of COVID-19 lockdown and surrounded by a country and world in chaos and crisis.

“This album was a good release for us and a good way to spend that time as opposed to just watching the news all day and tripping out on everything,” Rocks said. Inglish described creating the record as a freeing experience, one that allowed him to bring things back to “the stuff that hits you in the chest directly,” the sort of sound that first made the group find an international fan base during the aughts.

Yet when it came time to bring their new music to the masses, The Cool Kids decided to break with tradition and develop a new take on touring. Like writing and recording during the pandemic, the live music experience has drastically changed since the pandemic began. The music industry has become increasingly numbers-oriented, with labels eager for artists to chase large numbers across streaming platforms and social media networks. “But then they show up for a concert in a city and they can’t get 20 people to show up,” Michael added. This often leads to tour cancellations.

Part of this change is due to an ever-increasing number of artists who focus on finding more success on a blog post from a gossip site than developing good music. But another part of it is due to the changing tastes of audiences. The landscape of concerts has changed. Audiences are not treating a show in a music hall the same as they did even three years ago. And during an ongoing pandemic, many aren’t even willing to make the journey out to see a show.

“Instead of just showing up and listening to a concert and getting drinks spilled on you all night, getting your shoes stepped on or getting pushed into the mosh pit, we figured we’d be better off paying attention to the people that pay attention to us rather than trying to reach out to a billion people,” Rocks said.

Enter “Night School,” something special and unique for people who trust the group’s curation instincts for entertainment. “We decided to pull in each of our individual talents, all of the things we’re really interested in,” said Michael. “We saw an avenue for it to be a part of the ‘Night School’ experience.”

The event begins with “First Period,” a culinary event by rapper-producer-chef Inglish, who will team up with local chefs on a fixed menu that is inspired by the effects Black culture has had on the food world. Later, during “Second Period,” audiences can watch a live taping of the Mystery School Podcast. Hosted by Rocks and Owen Bones, the podcast is an interactive late-night show featuring comedy, gaming, music and news. The evening caps off with “Third Period,” which features performances by The Cool Kids as well as their friends, including Joe Fresh and Zack Fox.

“We’re building a community that people can come and exist in with us,” Inglish said about the event.

The two plan to eventually take the show on the road and may even turn it into a streaming event. “We’ve turned more into a factory of items, lifestyle, situations and that’s what people are buying. Brand recognition, this is what we want to happen,” Inglish said.

“Me personally, if I was going out somewhere, I’d be looking for an experience. I’d want it to be something evolved. I want food, I want entertainment, I want all of that stuff in a comfortable place,” Rocks added. “It just seems like this is the best expression of who we are as a group more than just putting out a record and performing a few songs.”

10 p.m. Saturday at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St.; tickets are $28-$390 (ages 17+), more at ticketmaster.com

Britt Julious is a freelance critic.

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