News Column

Wizard rapper LiL iFFy creates magic for one special fan

July 5, 2014

By Wayne Bledsoe, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

July 05--The connection between music fans and the artists they love tends to be long distance. They connect through a song on an album. They feel the energy at a concert and maybe have a handshake after the show. Wednesday night at the Pilot Light, Knoxville-based "wizard rapper" LiL iFFy did something different.

When diehard 17-year-old fan Ethan Mausolf told iFFy (Wil Wright) that his family was moving to Rome, Wright decided to do something special. Wednesday night at the Pilot Light LiL iFFy and crew put on a show just for Mausolf.

"It all came together in a matter of about 36 hours," says Wright. "When you get the opportunity to take care of someone who loves what you do or to do something special for them, you should do it."

With Senryu, Wright has had fans commit marriage proposals at shows, but this was a first for an iFFy performance.

The idea came up a few months ago when Mausolf talked with Wright after a Record Store Day performance at Disc Exchange and told him his family was moving to Rome.

LiL iFFy is the "Harry Potter"-influenced rap artist who has played Bonnaroo and toured all across the United States. What began from an experiment to end Wright's writer's block during a hiatus from his band Senryu turned into a nationally recognized touring act.

Mausolf, now a junior at Farragut High, became a fan a little more than a year ago, more from his love of hip hop than the Potter references, but he had only been able to attend three previous LiL iFFy performances, because the shows generally take place in 18- or 21-and-up only venues.

"If it wasn't 18-and-up I was there!," says Mausolf.

Wright mostly knew of Mausolf's dedication to the act from his posts on the LiL iFFy Facebook page and said, "We'll have to throw you a going away party."

The two didn't communicate for a while, but when Wright realized that the move was imminent, he switched into high gear.

Wright says it helped to have a venue like the Pilot Light and its owner, Jason Boardman, in town.

"Even if it was not something that was going to make a lot of money, he (Boardman) knew it was something special and something of substance to have it at his place."

The venue usually makes a little off of beer sales and pays the bands from admission at the door, but to accommodate the underage crowd the club was opened early, and beer sales were suspended for the event.

In addition, there was no advertisement for the concert. While a few people who didn't know Mausolf were told, the entire event was staged just for Mausolf and no admission was charged. Recent iFFy shows have drawn crowds of several hundred.

Nearly all the iFFy crew was present for the show, including Playboy Manbaby, Yaz, DJ Tom Ato and Mr. 9 and 3/4, and they performed a full show for Mausolf and his friends. And, during the song "Gemino," Mausolf was pulled up on stage to perform with the band.

"I had absolutely no idea that was going to happen," says Mausolf. "(Beforehand) he asked me if I had any requests and I just said 'Gemino.'"

Wright did have a clue that Mausolf knew the words, though. He'd handed the mike to Mausolf and a friend at one of the performances they'd attended during "Gemino" and they knew the rap.

Mausolf's friends bobbed to the music and sang along and everyone seemed to appreciate that this was, indeed, a special event.

LiL iFFy's local shows have been cut back drastically as the group plans more national and regional tours (they will open for Kottonmouth Kings on July 27 at the International), so that made things extra special.

There was a brief moment when the computer holding the music samples broke down and the event became even more casual. It was a moment when the room felt even more like family -- a family related by music.

Wright, for his part, said everything about the event was just right:

"Literally, everyone involved made no money and everyone left feeling awesome. ... It was special for everybody. Those sorts of opportunities are rewards in themselves."


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Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

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