Reggae dancehall legend Barrington Levy blazed through Petaluma on Thursday night in classic dub train style. Barrington’s voice is sounding cleaner than ever and his form is looking fantastic as he approaches 50 years old. The show was part of the Road to California Roots Festival tour, a push towards spreading the word about the massive three-day event next May. There will be many more – look for J Boog and Los Rakas in January.
The house was packed at the Mystic Theater; a heady crowd leaning on the farther side of thirty and forty. Barrington paid court to his long time fans with studio-style versions of “My Time” and “Too Experienced”, letting them flow off the mic like he has played them for decades (he has). His encore of “Black Rose” hushed the crowd until everyone started singing along. But the real depth of his performance was in the heavy duty b-side takes on lesser known tracks like “A Ya We Deh” and “Bounty Hunter”.
Holding the decks was WBLK selector Jacques Powell-Wilson, founder of Monday Night Edutainment at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol. The sound system is rounding out 12 years as the North Bay’s longest running reggae genre night. Jacques brought down some of his massive collection of vinyl rarities including the Meditations’ “Stranger In Love” and Dennis Brown’s “Come Home With Me”. If you can dig it, WBLK is hosting their first in a series of all-vinyl appreciation nights starting December 9th with Ras Gilbert of Shashamani Sound.
Opening for Barrington was former Sonoma County, now Santa Cruz transplant, band Thrive. The group recently joined forces with California Roots Festival organizers and have been touring the country spreading sunny, post-Sublime positive reggae, which they have now infused with RnB pop. I see them shying away from their reggae-rock roots in the coming months, but we’ll see where they take their sound come festival season.
I gotta say this: The Mystic Theater hasn’t seen this much smoke in years. Ever since management started really cracking down on puffing inside the venue, Petaluma’s reggae scene hasn’t been the same. Undercover goons jam their way through the crowds, flashlights scanning for joints, grabbing hold of skinny hippies and short frat dudes with their menacing stares that promise, “try that again, so I can haul your ass out in front of everyone”. But it’s no fun when the homies can’t have none… Thankfully, Thursday was a chill alternative to the type of muscle attitude we’ve gotten used to at Sonoma County shows. Probably because the show was too expensive for the college kids to raid. Although many of them could have benefited from knowing the roots of where their beloved Cali Roots Rock comes from.
On another note: Rather than releasing full albums of new material, Barrington seems to be focusing on recent collaborations with newer generations of established artists, namely JadaKiss and Vybz Kartel, Kardinal and Busta Rhymes. Check this made-for-MTV Jams 2010 release “No War” featuring Kardinal. The original features Busta Rhymes and quotes President Obama’s inaugural speech.
Like most up-and-coming writers, our day jobs often get in the way of multi-day festivals. We write all week to get in free, drowning at our crappy jobs to pay the way once we get there. We spend the entire weekend running between bands, posting iPhone photos to social media, and trying to finagle free meals. We do it for the love of live music. We do it because we wouldn’t have lives if we stayed home all weekend. So it was nothing new that a crisis at the office resulted in missing most of Friday. But rolling into Monterey County just after 9pm, I was able to park and get to will call before headliners, Rebelution, even took the stage. At least I’d made it for that.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law always lays it down in the most critical of situations. The girl in the ticket booth had no idea who I was, much less who the media organizers were. So there I was, with a line of pre-party-drunk VIP ticket holders waiting behind me while I frantically searched my emails for phone numbers. Thankfully, and one of many reasons why Moore Media shined all weekend, the head organizer returned my text to confirm we’d meet at the artist gate in five minutes. Sort of running along Fairgrounds Blvd., and without wanting to show up sweaty and out of breath, I paused for a few seconds to pull myself together. Luckily I had my two trusted travel partners, Jameson and his lady Ginger, who proved once again essential allies as I journeyed clear across the 20 acre property.
By the time I arrived at the gate, Rebelution was already on stage. Looking out on the crowd, there was no way I was gonna mash through nearly 10,000 fans already up against the railings. It was literally a sea of bouncing heads and puffs of smoke. Fortunately, for those who can afford it, music festivals have turned to offering VIP ticket holders access to backstage areas. For an extra $100, you can hang out with artists and media and stand in side-stage balcony boxes high over the crowds. It can be an awesome opportunity to enjoy the bands while keeping a drink in your hand, but nothing beats being smashed up against railings watching your favorite singer drip sweat down the mic cord. [Read more after the break]
Snoop Dogg, AKA Snoop Lion recently did a Q&A session on social networking Internet aggregator site Reddit.com (they’re called AMA–Ask Me Anything–and President Obama did one just before the election), answering hundreds of questions, far more than other celebrities, with 10-words-or-less answers. What catches my eye is the answer to “How weed do you smoke in a week?” with a simple “81 blunts a day x 7.”
This is why I love the Internet. The ensuing discussion includes calculations of just how much weed that actually is. One person says 22 pounds per year, and is promptly reprimanded for calculating “matchstick-sized blunts.” The actual amount for Snoop-sized blunts, assuming two grams per blizzle, is 130 pounds a year. The post is then corrected further to equate to 131.98 pounds.
This breaks down to one blunt every 12 minutes, assuming eight hours of sleep per 24 hours. But obviously, Snoop does not smoke all of those on his own, Snoop is a giver and has a large crew. He might take just one hit of any given blunt, but that still counts.
Sure, the rap legend changed his persona and made a record of reggae with no rapping whatsoever on it, which just dropped a single on Youtube. But the questions didn’t really focus on this, and Snoop, to his credit, didn’t really push it that much. He just answered questions, no matter how obscure, for hours.
Other vital Snoop-formation:
– Snoop-approved munchies include: pistachios, Fritos BBQ Twists and Red Vines
– The only people to smoke HIM out are Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa and B-Real
– Snoop’s favorite stoned album is Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”
– OG Kush is Snoop’s favorite strain of marijuana
– He prefers Cadillacs to trains
– Snoops’ favorite performance was on the Arsenio Hall show.
– Snoop enjoys soccer and plays FIFA 2012
– He was weed-free about five years ago for 164 days straight.
– Snoop enjoys kung-fu movies.
– His guilty musical pleasure is K-POP
By the way, Mr. Dogg/Lion is playing at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Dec. 15 ($70) and the Uptown Theater in Napa in Dec. 14 ($60). Bring some BBQ Twist Fritos and see if he wants to chill after the show.
Despite the rain, crowds filled Hopmonk’s Abbey last week for Monday Night Edutainment’s first big show of the fall season. For more than a decade, the weekly dance party has been introducing Sonoma County to reggae’s freshest bands and MCs. But it is loyalty to the genre’s biggest international stars that consistently fills the house.
Edutainment’s WBLK production crew resumed their tradition of booking excellent talent with a three-band lineup. What’s more, Hopmonk had their first opportunity to debut a giant translucent tent covering the entire back patio. With the rain falling lightly outside, it was just another NorCal summer night inside the glowing dome.
Headlining was Caribbean band Bambú Station from the Virgin Island of St. Croix. They are currently touring as one half of The One Island Tour, a 16-city West Coast run with Maui’s InnaVision. The two linked up with the opener Ancestree, a reggae festival favorite based in Santa Cruz.
Sheer exposure to some of the world’s finest reggae musicians is reason enough to hit up WBLK’s Monday Night Edutainment dancehall party in Sebastopol. South American songstress Alika with Oakland-based selector DJ Stepwise gave an outstanding performance to a packed house last Monday at Hopmonk. Hosted by local DJs Jacques and Guacamole, Alika was fresh off Reggae River where she played with L.A. band Quinto Sol. DJ Stepwise opened the show with an incredible cultural history lesson in current Latin American music, mixing reggae and cumbia artists from Argentina to Panama, Mexico to the Caribbean.
Clearly laying down a precedence for Latin American reggae at the weekly dance party, Alika sang the entire two hour set in Spanish. Her message of universal rights was received by a crowd as diverse as the county offers. Although many folks couldn’t understand the lyrics, the good vibes united us across cultural divides.
Performing selections off her fourth album “Educate Yourself” along with several tracks from her newest mix tape “Unidad y Respeto” (“Unity and Respect” mixed by DJ Stepwise), Alika proved confident in connecting with a U.S. audience. Considered the No. 1 Spanish-speaking female reggae singer in world, her six album catalog features such artists as Mad Professor, Anthony B, and Mexico’s leading rapper Akil Ammar.
The seamless mix of roots reggae, hip hop, and cumbia rhythms incorporate Alika’s blend of streetwise female rapper with the air of a Rasta empress – at Monday’s show she donned a black Adidas jacket, high-top Nike kicks in pink, and a shirt with a artist’s rendering of Haile Selassie’s image under which read “Babylon Shall Fall”.
Before the show, Alika sat down with me in the green room to talk about the Reggae on the River music festival, her latest album, and why she loves people who pirate her CDs.
Performing a brilliant vintage set in the late-night dancehall at last weekend’s SNWMF was infamous London reggae selector Sir David Rodigan. A classic, articulate British sort in his early sixties, Rodigan has the intonation and inclination of a musical elder. With a successful radio career that spans three decades on London’s premier radio stations, the selector holds a position in the U.K.’s Radio Academy hall of fame and an appointment to the Order of the British Empire. It has been said an endorsement from Rodigan can launch an artist’s career worldwide.
Yet, it is clearly obvious the man has seen his life’s work, and that of other traditionalist dubplate selectors, dismantled by a new generation of unoriginal club DJs. Rodigan’s reactions to this crude regurgitation of artist’s samples shows just how detrimental predictability is to the creative balance of the genre.
While speaking to the press at this year’s Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Rodigan was candid about the current landscape of today’s selector sound.
My constituent David Sason has a cover story in the Bohemian this week about the rampant homophobia in reggae music, tracing it to the sources in Jamaica and examining the cultural roots of hatred. It’s worth a full read, and when you’re done, there’s even more here.
Dancehall artist Beenie Man has a quote in the article:
Beenie Man proudly performs his controversial songs, including “Damn,” which has him “dreaming of a new Jamaica” where he can “execute all gays.”
But perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics. In a 2006 statement, Beenie Man explained his point of view: “Jamaica is not against gay people. Gay means consented sex. What we have in Jamaica is not what it is in England, where two men live together. That’s not it in Jamaica, and these people fail to understand that. In Jamaica, gay is rape. It’s a big man with their money going into the ghetto and picking these little youth who ain’t got nothing. And then give them money and then involving them.
“There were 550 youths who got raped inna Jamaica, you know? And nobody seems to speak of that. Nobody sees the youth get raped and throat cut because the man who raped him, he knows him, and he doesn’t want him to go back and say he did it. And these things still happening.”
Obviously, Beenie Man is a confused individual with no proper set of logic and probably, I’m guessing, no gay friends. His explanation is about as preposterous as myself saying, “Santa Rosa is not against Canadians. Canadian means nice person. What we have in Santa Rosa is not like other places. In Santa Rosa, Canadian means fucking asshole. 550 youths were beat up by fucking assholes. Nobody seems to speak of that. All these fucking assholes are still around. That’s why I have a song called ‘Canadians Are Fucking Assholes.'”