Before Slightly Stoopid took the stage Sunday night at the Mystic Theater, vocalists Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty were killing time back stage talking about living in Ocean Beach. OB, as locals call it, is still connected to San Diego but far enough away that kids can still skate around town and all your neighbors are at the punk rock shows. It is the last night of the band’s three week tour and the vibe is laid back. People are filtering in and out of back stage, the Jäger is flowing and sax scales are filling up the background.
Trinidad reggae star Marlon Asher is on stage and inside the green room there are stacks of Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid” beer cases. Slightly Stoopid is sponsored by the Petaluma brewery and they are sent truck loads of it for the band’s tours. I hear one or two people say it’s pretty strong for before the show. But as the night wears down and everyone’s sitting around the bong, a nice Double IPA aids the come-down.
Slightly Stoopid was formed almost twenty years ago by McDonald and Doughty. They were two high school kids when Brad Nowell signed them to Skunk Records after opening for a Sublime show in Long Beach. Most of the current members have been with the band half that time and in the last decade they’ve toured the whole world. Now with Karl Denson of the Grey Boy All-Stars, the band is sky-rocketing to new heights, playing venues and festivals that make the Mystic Theater seem like a secret show.
There wasn’t much time to get into it, but it was obvious everyone knew the significance of playing in Petaluma. Almost seventeen years ago, Brad Nowell played his last show at the Phoenix Theater just around the corner. That show was epic (and I was 15). Sublime set off a whole new genre of music. Sometimes called surf reggae, the band brought a world of international rhythms to punk rock and ska, making roots music approachable to the masses. “Sublime injected reggae into an entire generation of American skateboard kids” says trumpet player C-Money.
While the crowd inside is jamming to Asher, vocalist Miles Doughty is reflecting on making harmonies with legendary Grateful Dead member Bob Weir. Slightly Stoopid recorded a live, in-studio performance at Weir’s TRI Studios in San Rafael a few years back. The 31 song music video, hosted by Tommy Chong, is available online. More recently, the band just released its 7th album Top of the World with a slew of ultra-talented guest artists including Barrington Levy, Don Carlos, G. Love, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, and Ian Neville. This is the album that really showcases the band’s maturity and musicianship.
Marlon Asher breaks into his seminal hit “Ganja Farmer” and the crowd goes crazy. Asher’s smooth, hazy harmonies blend seamlessly into synth keys and sultry rhythms. He calls Stoopid vocalist Kyle McDonald on stage to throw in a rhyme that makes the entire theater erupt. Asher is quietly taking the U.S. reggae tour scene, releasing his latest hit “Fit and Strong” and bringing back revolutionary roots reggae. Check it here.
After the show, I ask Asher’s tour manager if they have linked with J Boog since his cover of ‘Ganja Farmer’. When the song dropped, the previously lesser-known Boog became an instant classic for reggae DJs. Under heavy dreads, he says they have tried connecting in Compton, J Boog’s hometown, but keep missing him between stints in Boog’s adopted Hawaii. Although Boog’s version is sexy like Hawaiian beauties, Asher’s original roots cry embraces the trials and tribulations of Rasta, keeping it true to the culture and down for the cause.
Later, between rappin’ with members of Marlon Asher’s band, McDonald keeps himself busy pouring everyone pre-show cocktails. His Jäger and Redbull shots taste like carbonated candy. “We play close to 200 shows a year” he tells me, under a grey RVCA hat, “but not that many in San Diego”. He’s chipping ice cubes from the Jäger bottle and taking orders at the same time. McDonald’s got a signature SoCal style. Think a clean-cut Jay Adams. As a musician he, along with the other band members, are sponsored by surf, skate and liquor companies; Billabong and Sector 9 blend real nice with vodka on the beach. His hallmark Dickies and white socks over Converse rep Cali lifestyle like Mendo herb and Venice Beach. After getting up on stage with Asher, I tell him that just hearing his voice takes me back to carefree summer days. He smiles and goes on about getting back into the groove of home life, ready to see his two kids after three weeks, and having to get up at 7am.
Family is righteous with these guys. And it seems like the transition period between being young and free is now fading into a longing for home and family. Sitting back with friend and mentor Marc Smith while sipping on a Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter, drummer “RyMo” Moran makes jokes about getting older. Moran is a San Rafael native and took lessons from the renown jazz drummer back in the day. Clad in old school Vans and a blue flannel, Moran gripes about how expensive the imported beer has gotten. He’s ready to go home. It has got to be pretty rad when your dad’s a member of Slightly Stoopid. Even if his kids are tiny, they probably already surf, skate and play music.
The band goes on just after 10:30. A long instrumental introduction brings each member on stage until it culminates in the band’s classic fusion of funk, ska punk, and reggae hip hop. The dance floor starts bouncing and from there on out people are in constant motion. Somewhere between rotating dance circles and friendly moss pits, the scene is less drunken riot and more blissful happiness. There were people from age 21 into their late sixties, and they all knew practically every word. The band plays mostly tracks from Top of the World, but also mixes in plenty of classics from past albums like Everything You Need and Closer to the Sun.
Miles Doughty is one of those incredible vocalists whose range isn’t defined by octaves but rather by dynamism. He can take a bouncy reggae tremolo and turn it into a sultry melody within a few bars. Along with McDonald, the vocal duo has perfected their harmonies over the years. From drawn out, soul-fueled ballads to high-energy ‘toasting‘ with the rhythm section, they flawlessly combine breezy melodies and hip hop lyricism like tall cans and blunts on a perfect summer day.
Listen to Doughty’s lushious cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” below. You’ll fall in love, I promise.
What a band wears on stage says a lot about what they represent. Musicians wear their friend’s brands out of love, respect and promotion. Saxophonist DeLa wore a bright blue shout out to “Blind To You” and I ask him after the show if he likes Collie Buddz. Apparently they are good friends. True to their old-school heritage, Slightly Stoopid frequently rocks SRH Clothing. The Mission Beach, San Diego company started in 1991 putting on punk rock shows for Pennywise, NOFX and Sublime. The brand embodies independent lifestyles, keeping it true to the scene and down for the cause. Read an interview with SRH founders here.
Trumpet player C-Money’s got mad style on stage and off. His ensemble is complete with black fedora, gold chains and a fiery demeanor to match. Originally from North Carolina, the multi-instrumentalist has played with The Expendables and John Brown’s Body, kicks it with Sly & Robbie, and is adamant about legalizing marijuana as his constitutional right. His talent adds confident dimension, rounding out Slightly Stoopid’s horn section with soul and flavor. Together with Karl Denson and DeLa, they have refined the band’s ability to fuse salsa and cumbia rhythms with ska and jazzy horn riffs. C-Money is fly. Period. Link up with @CMoneys420Hunnies on Instagram and check his rockstar lifestyle for yourself.
Listening to Slightly Stoopid albums for fifteen years now, finally seeing them perform live was nothing short of amazing. It’s no coincidence the show sold out in less than a week. Next time, don’t hold out. This is a band you will want to tell your kids you saw several times.
Tags: Karl Denson, Marlon Asher, Mystic Theater, Petaluma, Slightly Stoopid