Monday, June 23, 2008

Written Bits Part 2

FowardEver celebrated an earthdate weekend in style with two amazing live shows and some DJing thrown in for good measure.

Although I missed the return pass of dubstep kings Benga and Skream last Wednesday at Mighty, authorities report that it was rammed, happy and bass-weight-driven. Read my review of Benga's Diary of an Afro Warrior.

F-E did manage to make it to two shows Sunday June 22, 2008, but not without a last-minute DJ fill-in gig for my man B-Love the night before at downtown watering hole Cantina.

The cozy bar's pan-Latin theme was well-suited for ForwardEver's soul, broken, afro-Latin and hip-hop beats. It was a night where Quantic, Willie Colon, Roy Ayers, Q-Tip and Antibalas rubbed shoulders on the Technics decks. The song that really brought the house down, though, was definitely Tarrus Riley's "She's Royal" -- a tracks that was shamefully underplayed on American urban radio. Guess the message is just too damn positive.

The next afternoon was spent basking under eucalyptus trees in Stern Grove taking in the US debut of Nigerian artist Seun Kuti. Fela's son did not disappoint covering both his father's hits ("Suffering & Smiling") and his own album's excellent tracks ("Many Things," "Na Oil"). Read my preview of the show and album here.

However, one of the day's additional highlights was baritone sax player Adedimeji "Showboy" Fagbemi (pictured above), leader of the Egypt 80 brass section. He opened the show with a convincing version of "Don't Bring That Shit To Me" and his solos were earth-shaking. Showboy initiated infectious call-and-response-vocals with the backup singers, bellowing with a mighty "whoa!"

Here's a brief video outtake from Sunday afternoon's show in the wooded Stern Grove ampetheater:

Hear a track by Showboy's early 70s namesake.

Finally, it was out to see Morgan Heritage, reggae's best live band, performing at The Independent on Sunday June 22.

Read more about them in my SFBG review.

On the night, Peter (pictured at top of this post), Gramps, Una, Mr. Mojo and the Heritage family came with a tightly-segued performance that included gems like "Politicians," "Nothing To Smile About" and "Raid Rootz Dance" from the new album Mission In Progress (VP) as well as stalwart hits "Down By The River," "Man Is Still A Man," "Main Squeeze" and "Don't Haffi Dread" (a crowd favorite that they should probably retire now).

Why are they reggae's best live band? For one, every member sings and plays and instrument, they even swap instruments and leads several times in a song. Two, they perform an album-perfect version of each song before breaking away into improvised dubs, acoustic versions and reprises. Plus they actively explain their tracks' meaning and intentions -- no mystery or hiding behind veiled patois for MH -- they're lyrical narratives are clear.

Excellent four-part harmonies, spirited but brief soloing and a solid 90-minute set add to their already golden reputation. Forget seeing Steel Pulse or Third World (both fine bands) for the umpteenth time. Morgan Heritage need to be at the top of your reggae concert list.

All in all, a grand b-day week done ForwardEver style, regards to all the friends who came along for this ride...