By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Spear and the Burning Band played many classics — including “Jah Nuh Dead,” “Old Marcus,” “Slavery Days,” “The Youth” — as well as tracks from his durable new disc, Free Man. The set pacing varied little from previous shows, but consistency is what Spear offers and what his fans want. Despite the popularity of digital dancehall and the diminished influence of Rastafarian ideals, Spear has kept a full band on the road for years, continually praising Jah and punching holes in Babylon’s materialist façade. The Burning Band’s trademark air-cushion groove levitated the dance floor with uplifting horn fanfares, unwavering drum-and-bass riddims, bubbling keyboards, tack-sharp guitars and deep-dish dub. When given a chance to solo, trumpeter Glen Williams blew cool and blue, then segued to mariachi blare, while lead guitarist Cecil Ordonez embodied shred and swing.
Moving from mumble-chant to growl-shout to birdsong-whistle, the ever-enigmatic Spear relies on aphoristic repetition and simple-truth lyrics, using his gruff croon and uncanny timing like an added horn or rhythm instrument — he often seeks refuge in his percussion set after a vocal turn. When the ageless soul messenger bellowed Marcus Garvey’s name or asked if we remembered the days of slavery, his anguish and conviction still resonated. Once again, the graybeard from St. Ann’s delivered the goods; fans filed out into the early-morning air well-skanked and trance-sweaty. (Tom Cheyney)
NOBODY, BREAKESTRA at Temple Bar, September 5
Though Elvin Estela has a DJ’s credentials, that’s not what Nobody — Estela’s sunny psychedelic vision — is about. Passionately cavorting and banging a tambourine as often as he pored over decks, Estela whipped up miasmas of analog/digital saturation that transported this shaggy love child as much as us. Thanks to a swinging, versatile trap drummer, the crew (drawing for the most part from the hypnotic new Pacific Drift) never lost the head-nodding cadence of hip-hop, even when the shimmering textures reached critical density. To their credit, Nobody et al. rendered a Zombies tune (!) unrecognizable, but the guitarist’s request for a “Dewars rocks” just didn’t fit with the paisley frippery.
Where Nobody could shoegaze with the best in Britain, Breakestra is the proud voice of America’s inner cities. The band, one of those outsize groove collectives, moves between genres with the ease of a medley. There were literally no pauses between the James Brown preacher frenzies, marathon Afro-pop workouts, thumping funkdowns and horn-stabbed rave-ups, as these styles coalesced into one big sweat-soaked jam. At times the band cleaved a bit too close to the classic Motown vinyl that inspires them, and while the reverent references were never less than energizing, the set at times came dangerously close to cover-band territory.
The individual musicians made such considerations secondary. The guitarist was lost in the mix, but you could savor the Manzarek-worthy lounge histrionics of the organist, the trumpeter’s film-score-caliber clarions and a Tina Turner–style songbird who jumped onstage for a few sex-drenched numbers. Leader Miles Tackett demurred from abusing the microphone, encouraging his band to show off their skills instead; every harmonic convergence needs a prime mover. (Andrew Lentz)
XZIBIT, DEFARI at Club 1650, September 6
Even off-duty motorcycle pigs and a Farrakhan-looking bouncer detail couldn’t put a chill on Rhyme Night. As a personal reminder of how he came up, once a month Xzibit hosts this series to expose new talent in front of radio personalities and label scouts — a terrific way of keeping our ear turned to the streets. In tonight’s case, the streets were the sun-baked avenues of the Inland Empire, as shout-outs to San Berdoo and Riverside got the majority of fists in the air.
Far from some amateur parade, the unsigned hopefuls were mostly slamming. Marcia Brady (“been rapping since she was 5”) and FEXX (two beefy dudes rocking Sennheiser wireless microphones) were as stylistically fresh as Xzibit’s own ruff-neck flows, which he dropped on us between the unknowns. Draped in Gale Sayers’ No. 40 jersey, Xzibit did a yeoman’s job of big-upping West Coast hip-hop, squashing rumors (“Fuck what y’all heard, that I’m dead or in jail or whatever”) and fomenting civil disobedience (“Free Ras Kass”).
Featured guest Defari — formerly of the Likwit Crew and currently a high school teacher in Inglewood — equaled the self-promotion talents he displayed at the Power 106 battle last weekend: “If you’re feeling Odds and Evens, say, ‘Hell mutherfuckin’ yeah.’” But gearwhores appreciated how keen he was on the automobile-centric nature of the lifestyle: “Even if you all don’t have the latest system,” he said, referring to the bass units stuffed into car trunks, “buy it anyway.” Still, he was generous to a fault, repeatedly plugging the upcoming CD by his DJ, E-Swift. And not wanting to steal the shine from what could be the next MC du jour, he did only a handful of cuts before vanishing, leaving us hungry. (Andrew Lentz)