Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review from the Archives: Culture at Irving Plaza, NYC 6/13/98

The redesign of the venue detracts from its previously scrungy charm: the Nazi behind the bar wouldn’t sell any $7 Rolling Rocks to anyone without ID, a somewhat nasty discovery for audience members with cottonmouth. From the pungent scent of ganja wafting throughout the club, there were more than a few. Arrived in time to catch Ithaca roots reggae act John Brown’s Body deliver an excellent, hypnotic, horn-driven closing tune: must check this band out at some point. This edition of Culture has reliably impassioned lead singer Joseph Hill backed by just a lone harmony singer now, in addition to two keyboardists (one with some shockingly authentic-sounding horn patches), guitarist and rhythm section. Only one guitar solo all night long, during I’m Not Ashamed, which was far superior to the metal stuff their previous axeman used to play on this song. They did lots of old stuff: Chiney Man, Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion, an abbreviated version of the classic, apocalyptic Two Sevens Clash (just the first two verses and choruses), Be Honest With Yourself, Addis Abbaba and International Herb with a short chant/refrain of “legalize it” at the end. They didn’t do Riverside, strange since the video is a big Rockers TV hit. Give thanks and praise to H.I.M. Haile I Selassie I for jah music.

[postscript: Joseph Hill collapsed and died shortly after finishing a show in Germany in 2006. The remaining members finished the tour with Hill’s son Kenyatta on lead vocals, subsequently disbanded and then reunited for a 2009 tour. John Brown’s Body continue to carry the torch of classic roots reggae with a hypnotic brilliance matched by few bands alive today]

June 13, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Time I Went to the Pot Parade

It was mid-May, 1999, unseasonably cool for the global warming era. The plant kingdom was in full sprout. My girlfriend and I wandered down Broadway toward Battery Park. As we reached the park, there was no indication that there would be any greater quantity of illegal drugs there than on any other day, or that anyone would be ostentatiously indulging in them.

I was sober.

We were going to see a free show by John Brown’s Body, the best white reggae band ever. I say that jokingly because they’re also one of the best reggae bands ever, irrespective of anything that pigmentation might imply. That they’re worth seeing while sober attests to how good a live band they are: you can be completely free of any pot-induced bullshit and still enjoy them because they’re not any more self-indulgent, repetitive or clichéd than, say, Bob Marley.

As we approached the stage (this was in the days when you could do that, before the Park Pigs began setting up a labyrinth of barriers worthy of the king of Minos), we could smell what people were there for. There were lots of cops, but not in anything approximating the kind of numbers you see today when they do dry runs for a post-9/11 catastrophe, massed with sirens and lights under the Williamsburg Bridge.

I approached one of them and struck up a conversation. He wasn’t stoned as far as I could tell and seemed pretty blasé about the whole thing. “What’s it like, working this thing?” I asked him. He laughed. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Eventually a small handful of the more obvious pothead kids were led away in handcuffs. Yet for the most part, the cops kept a respective distance and the revelers did the same. John Brown’s Body did a very short set, about 25 minutes. Then some guy from a popular Wetlands band – I forget the name – got up and launched into a pretty bad Shabba Ranks impression. So we wandered back in the direction we had come. It was a pleasantly mellow, predictably amusing afternoon and although it was only eight years ago, it feels like a lifetime.

As cruel an irony as this is, if you go to the parade this year, don’t bring pot.

May 2, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, Rant | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment