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Sage Francis at Ace of Spades: photo essay

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Sage Francis played the Ace of Spades in Sacramento Friday night, headlining an all-ages show that also included Who Cares, Ricky James, and Verbal Venom. It was the Rhode Island-based political rapper’s first show in Sacramento in ten years.

Sage Francis at Ace of Spades

The show was part dance party, part consciousness-raising, and part therapy session. And judging by the crowd’s reaction: all catharsis. During many songs, the crowd rapturously rapped his lyrics back to him in unison.

The crowd at Ace of Spades shows their approval

As connected as his audience is to him, Francis has an strong connection to his audience and frequently interacted with individual members during the show.

Sage Francis frequently interacted with individual crowd members during the show.
An update after the show on his Twitter feed stated: "Having a soldier in the crowd passionately singing along to Makeshift Patriot & Slow Down Gandhi was the highlight for me. Really love that." Those two songs, perhaps his most politically-charged, seem just as relevant in today’s global political climate as they did when they were written. A sample lyric from 2001’s "Makeshift Patriot" (written after the 9/11 attacks):

"I have to back pedal/
From the shower of glass and metal/
wondering how after it settles, we’ll find/
who provided power to radical rebels"

Sage Francis brings the noise

Just as salient are these lyrics from "Slow Down Gandhi" from 2005’s A Healthy Distrust:

"Making you think you’re crazy is a billion dollar industry/
If they could sell sanity in a bottle/
They’d be charging for compressed air/
And marketing healthcare/
They demonize welfare/
Middle class eliminated/
Rich get richer til the poor get educated"

Francis wore a makeshift cape bearing his Strange Famous Records logo
Sage Francis wants you to think

While throwing political bombshells in his lyrics, Francis also played peacemaker when he spotted an altercation near the stage and sat on the monitor at the front of the stage to try to restore peace.

Sage Francis sits on a monitor at the front of the stage as he attempts to mediate a dispute in the audience

The show was hard-hitting and visceral, but also interspersed with moments of levity, including Francis declaring he was tired of rapping and wanted to sing for awhile, and then proceeding to half-lip sync/ half-sing a few bars of Mr. Mister’s 1980s hit "Kyrie" ("take these broken wings… and learn to fly again…") while dancing around the stage.

He describes another humorous moment on his Facebook page: "I asked all the mothers to raise their hands at the Sacramento show last night. I asked them if they had their kids with them. All of them said no. I explained how they are bad parents for depriving the youth of Uncle Sage’s educational experience. It’s not Mother’s Day just yet!"

A political firebrand spitting precise and hard-hitting lyrics? Or a cuddly teddy bear of a man? Both!!!
Francis spent a good half hour after the show signing autographs, hugging, talking, and taking pictures with fans.

Sage Francis talks with fans after the show
Sage Francis chatting with fans outside on the R Street sidewalk after the show

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