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.
DJ Vadim is gonna be at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint this Thursday, and although his last few records have been heavy on the reggae tip, I wholeheartedly recommend getting thy ass down there and checking it out. Born in Russia, raised in London, and now living in New York, Vadim’s style is a true cross-cultural hybrid; his series of USSR albums on Ninja Tune bridge in the most perfect way the worlds of hip-hop and electronica, and feature mostly rappers from outside of the United States. I am listening to USSR: The Art of Listening right now, and feeling good.
I stopped by the Guayakí Mate Bar a couple weekends ago to catch the Highlands and the Semi-Evolved Simians, where Celeste and her dad David have started putting on shows. The setup’s great: A cafe and coffee bar in the front and the “Aché Room”—a resplendent name for a venue if ever there was one—in the back. It is wider than it is deep, which is good for bands who don’t exactly draw 300 people, and being right next to the now-desolate Barlow Co. assists for nighttime walks between bands. The Crux played there last weekend; the owner’s planning on booking more shows in the future.
I talked to Noah D today, who’s getting married soon and is feeling the down-home spirit of friends, family and funk. He’s starting a weekly night at Aubergine called “The Dial Up.” I like the name. He doesn’t. The first night’s this Tuesday, June 16, featuring all vinyl—no CDJs, no Serato. The flyer promises Funk Essentials, Hip-Hop Slumpers, Big Reggae Tunes, Soul Boulders, Dancehall Gems and R&B Classics. I’m not sure what a “slumper” is, but A Tribe Called Quest might be a good signpost. Future nights will feature Nick Otis; a pay-the-bills ’80s Night; and Noah’s inventive hip-hop group, Sonicbloom.
Add to all of this Monday Night Edutainment over at Jasper O’Farrell’s still going strong, and the story of nightlife in Sonoma County in 2009 starts with an S and ends with an L. Somehow Sebastopol has gotten nightlife figured out, while Santa Rosa continues to have problems with live music.
This might also be a good time to mention Hillcrest Middle School in Sebastopol, whose marching band were given the chance to perform a song in the Apple Blossom Parade of their own choosing by their teacher, Mr. Fichera. Q: What did the students pick? A: “Love Lockdown,” by Kanye West! Fichera arranged it for marching band in about three hours, and the song’s huge drum cadence never sounded more amazing than bouncing off the buildings of Main Street on a Saturday morning.
It’s unlikely that Sebastopol is going to see a Monday night anything at all like this for the rest of the year. It felt like Bassnectar’s show at the Hopmonk was everything that the old stone building was built for, all those eons ago: “Avast! One Monday, these walls shall absorb the Earth’s pinnacle of gut-rumbling bass. Build strong, gentlemen!”
Yes, the bass could be heard two blocks away. I am surprised the windows are intact. Inside, the sweet combination of smells that only a packed club creates, fueled by Bassnectar’s singular style that had fans driving from hours away (the show was sold out days ago, but if you had a $20 bill, or a good story about your car breaking down, or were pregnant in a tube top and skirt, the guys watching the side doors seemed amenable).
Bassnectar has been in heavy rotation around these parts, and once an album receives that distinction, it’s time for the knighting ceremony, a.k.a. putting it on cassette. The Side Two to my Bassnectar Underground Communication tape is Spank Rock’s YoYoYoYoYo, a record which shares a lot of the same breakbeat production but has rapping, which is nice. One of my favorites from that album is “Bump,” with a killing verse by Amanda Blank. She’s got a solo album out in June, and judging by the first peek, it looks to deftly rule.
For those who weren’t able get in tonight, across the alley at Jasper O’Farrell’s was the place to be, at the long-running Monday Night Edutainment (“WBLK a dun di place every Monday at Jaspers.” “Seen? Yes Iyah! I-man WBLK a wickid!”). Jacques and Guacamole come up on eight years this summer, and they bring back the Coup’s Pam the Funkstress on June 1 to celebrate. Before that, for some of the best in Bay Area beats, Hopmonk’s got Greyboy coming in on May 14′s Juke Joint, too.
I sometimes have a hard time explaining to adults why a crowd can get excited about a person on stage pushing buttons. I’d hope that tonight would set some of the naysayers straight, if only for variety alone—it’s the only set I’ve heard that’s referenced the Gorillaz, Bill Haley, and “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun.” One thing, though, is undeniable: Sebastopol is whipping Santa Rosa’s ass on Monday nights. I drove home, brain still slightly curdled, and downtown Santa Rosa felt like a whimpering dog with its tail between its legs in comparison.
Living, as we do, in the same area as one of the greatest songwriters to ever live, we here at City Sound Inertia HQ heard through the grapevine long ago that Tom Waits was touring this year “through the south.” And knowing, as we do, of Waits’ propensity to keep the king away from his castle, so to speak, we didn’t hold our breath for a Bay Area show.
June 17 – Phoenix, AZ | June 18 -Phoenix, AZ | June 20 – El Paso, TX | June 22 – Houston, TX | June 23 – Dallas, TX | June 25 – Tulsa, OK | June 26 – St Louis, MO | June 28 – Columbus, OH | June 29 – Knoxville, TN | July 1 – Jacksonville, FL | July 2 – Mobile, AL | July 3 – Birmingham, AL | July 5 – Atlanta, GA
In other news, correspondents tell us that Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz totally fuckin’ rocked the walls off the French Garden restaurant on Saturday night in Sebastopol. To finish off his time spent at the Herdeljezi Festival, Hütz lined up a bunch of shot glasses along a table, filled them with strong liquor, and imbibed to his Romani heart’s content while climbing on top of chairs and powering through a fiery set of traditional gypsy tunes. (You can read David Sason’s Bohemian interview with Hütz here.)
Hütz had been spending the weekend staying at his buddy Les Claypool’s house, and someone close to the Claypool family informs us that Hütz’s wandering spirit must have overtaken him after the show on Saturday.
He never came home that night.
People at Gogol Bordello’s typically frenetic and crazy show at the Warfield Theater last week might have been too caught up in the mayhem to notice, but amidst the gypsy-punk rollicking and flailing bodies, singer Eugene Hutz announced to the crowd that he was going to be part of some sort of Gypsy festival in Sebastopol. With his Eastern European background, surely, he must have meant Sevastopol, the Ukranian city on the Crimea peninsula. Right?
Sonoma County, get out your herring and borscht: confirmed by Voice of Roma—the group who puts on the yearly festival—Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello will appear as a guest DJ at this year’s 12th Annual Herdejezi Festival at the Sebastopol Veterans Building on Friday, May 2nd. Also on the bill for the rest of the weekend’s festivities are Yuri Yunakov, Vadim Kopalkov, Petra Safarova, Reyhan Tuzsuz, and Brass Menazeri. Crowd-surfing on top of a marching bass drum is optional.
For those who don’t know, Gogol Bordello is one of the most mind-blowing live bands in the world right now, recalling the raucousness of the Pogues, the passion of the Clash, and the endurance of a young Bruce Springsteen. Hutz, the band’s enigmatic frontman, also has a show-stealing role in the wonderfully off-kilter film Everything is Illuminated.
Thanks to Caitlin for the heads up.