Sometimes you need to forget it all for a bit. The politics. The work. The struggle. The compromise. The disappointment.
I don’t know all of you personally, but for me, reggae music has always provided a traffic-free avenue away from all of the above.
It’s the groove. It’s the way the emphasis on the 1 and the 3 in the bar – instead of pop music’s insistence on the 2 and the 4 – makes you lift your feet up and act the happy fool. And it’s the way the lyrics tend to emphasize the potential of the positive mindset.
Slightly Stoopid – a tribe of California cats who’ve been at it for a good while now – gave me what I needed at Artpark on Wednesday.
What I needed was deep, fat grooves, bass lines that never strayed from the rhythm common to Jamaican dub music – or at least, rarely strayed from it – and lyrics that consistently looked on the bright side of life. OK, so some of that “bright side of life” includes copious smoking of marijuana for the band members, and for a healthy portion of the small but waaaaay into it crowd assembled at Artpark on Wednesday. But still –that sense of “everything’s gonna be all right” made famous by Bob Marley never wavered, and this was deeply moving.
Slightly Stoopid is considered part of the jam band scene, mainly because jam band fans tend to love music that is heavy on groove and improvisation. We got plenty of both on Wednesday, as the ensemble – Miles Doughty, Kyle McDonald, Ryan Moran, Oguer Ocon, DeLa and Paul Wostencraft – offered an uber-tight set of tunes pulled from throughout the band’s 20-plus-year career. Everyone there – a light crowd for an Artpark gig, but an on-the-mark crowd for a Slightly Stoopid gig – seemed to know the tunes. Lord knows I did. I’ve been following the band since 2000 and have, by and large, found their ability to infuse reggae with their own songwriting bent to be incredibly refreshing.
Right out of the gate, we got “Hold It Down,” a seriously swampy slab of dub-reggae with a killer chorus no one near the front of the stage had trouble singing along with. “The Prophet,” “No One Stops Us Now” and “Prayer for You” continued the party, all of them tunes that ably married the tenets of reggae and dub with verse-chorus-verse songs in a way that felt organic and powerful.
At midpoint, an audience member threw a joint onto the stage. A band member caught it, then asked for a lighter. He got one. The band shared the smoke between them, stomped it out, and then duly thanked the audience member who’d offered it, and got back to business. Less lucky were those fans who had happened to walk by a team of state troopers with a K9 drug-sniffing dog. I watched several of these unhappy folks being marched out of the venue before my eyes. I’m just leaving this here, devoid of comment. You can make up your own mind.
Back on planet Slightly Stoopid, the show marched on, as the powerful and incredibly tight ensemble married reggae, ska, folk and even a dash of punk to the visceral delight of the crowd.
I needed this on a tough Wednesday, during a tough week, that was part of a tough year. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who did. Music heals. Try it. You’ll see.