Better Than: the 2009 American Idols Tour at the Sprint Center.
I had second thoughts before I agreed to review the Lee "Scratch" Perry performance at the Beaumont Club on Sunday night.
"He's a legend," my friend said. "People are probably going to talk shit about your review, no matter what you write... and don't even think about getting a setlist either," he added.
Despite the warning, I decided to carry on, slightly fearing public backlash (i.e., Railroad Earth fans). I did some research, read interviews, learned the history of the Black Ark studio and listened to more than a few of his recordings (none of which sounded remotely similar). Going in, I felt properly schooled on the man who was at one time the fire to Bob Marley's smoke and who was instrumental in the creation of dub music.
The first onstage for what would turn out to be a five-hour evening of music was DJ Jabberock. A month or two ago, I met this red-haired man (who answers to the name Patrick) at Czar Bar and he was telling me about a Kansas City reggae documentary he is piecing together. It sounded intriguing enough. This city could use a new genre to follow.
Jabberock closed with a very rough mix of Sublime's "D.J.s." I groaned inwardly. Even I, a LBC native, have decided to put Brad Nowell and his music to rest. Permanently.
The Jabberock beats continued as the members of 77 Jefferson came on stage, and Jabber stayed behind his turntables while the rest of the band dished out their sexy reggae tunes. Having just recently won in the Best Reggae category at the Pitch Music Awards, 77 Jefferson has came a long way since the first time I saw them, at the 2007 Crossroads Music Festival at the Brick. Back then, they were a scrappy three piece, passing out burned CDs. Onward and upward with the KC reggae revolution.
I thought that 77 Jefferson would have gone on later. People were slowly stirring around the room, like the scents coming out of the chafing dishes from the G's Jamaican Cuisine table set up by the bar. Towards the end of their set, 77's drummer (who was wearing an Olde English 800 shirt) moved into the frontman position and took over for a bit. Perhaps versatility flows heavy through the veins of KC's reggae scene. Have you ever seen a keyboard player with a laptop in front of him as he played? Onstage skankin' ensued.
Next up was local turntablist, FSTZ. During the show, I rapped some with Pat Hopewell, who informed me that FSTZ is an "internationally known dubstep DJ." I'd seen the FSTZ moniker on several fliers around town. His mix was pretty smooth. Maybe I don't get out to see DJs very often, but I thought it was cool how FSTZ bounced along to his own beats, doing these like, ninja arm moves. It made the time go by a little faster but not much. Not too many people were dancing, and his set ran close to an hour. People were becoming antsy for the Upsetter.
Finally, a new band came on and people went closer to the stage. It was Lionize, Lee Perry's backing band (no Sublime acknowledgements). "When I've seen Lee Perry, there's been no openers," said Rob Veatch, the drummer for local bands the Sex Police and the Hearers. Surely, we thought, Lee Perry would be out soon. The show had been going on for three-plus hours at this point. People were not giving much love to Lionize.
A drunkish man with a high-and-tight haircut began shouting after about the third song. "I want Scratch!" he yelled. "Where is Lee "Scratch" Perry?"
On the stage, Lionize guitarist and lead vocalist Nate Bergman looked totally pissed. "The back of the room is over there!" he said loudly into his mic while pointing to the place where most of the crowd walked back to after they realized they were going to have to wait another hour to see the headliner. "Refund this guy's money!" Bergman shouted. I decided at this point that I wasn't much of a fan of Lionize.
After that scene, I retreated to the outside part of the Beaumont Club, where there were $1 Schlitz drafts and a bigger crowd for kickball than there was for the 73-year-old reggae legend inside. Pretty sad.
I got back inside just in time to see Lee Perry make it to the stage. The crowd was so small that I was able to do something that I never, EVER do: get in the very front. I mean, I was so close I was setting my beer right next to a monitor. Again, pretty sad.
What wasn't sad though was Perry's performance. He came out on stage carrying a black-and-white tiger-striped piece of carry-on luggage that I thought must have been an amp or something but it had no input jack. It was just there, like the two lit candles that he set on top of his set list.
If you've ever read anything about Lee Perry, you know he comes completely blinged-out. The man had on a bejeweled Ed Hardy-looking overshirt, sparkly shit all over his boots, metal flare and charms coming off of his mic, rings on every finger, bracelets and a billed hat with more mirrors and jewels. He also had dyed his beard, sideburns and some of his hair a cherry Kool-Aid color.
After opening with "Secret Laboratory," Perry said something unintelligible that ended with"Pretty girls in Kansas City..." and kept right on with his set, which sounded really good considering the word salad he was shooting forth. Lionize was right behind him, smoothly nailing the jammy tempos and beats. Despite what I said above, I do have to give them props. However, I thought the look on Bergman's face while he was playing was fuckin' priceless. He looked like he was either ready to cry or murder someone. Playing backup for Lee Perry couldn't have been an easy undertaking.
The mostly older, genuinely appreciative crowd danced and swayed to the beat while Perry did "Pum Pum" (his Andrew W.K. collaboration) and "One Drop," a Bob Marley cover. No one seemed to mind when he did weird shit, like pour water on his boots, do hopscotch moves, hold up his suitcase thing intermittently and lick the flame while he lit his lighter. As per usual, someone in the crowd was smoking weed. (Am I the only person who, when turning around to see where the smoke is coming from, can never see the phantom joint?)
Towards the end, Perry did his version of "War Inna Babylon" and started moving slower. He kept calling for more applause while people in the audience were going crazy. "We love you, Mr. Perry!" a man behind me yelled. During his final song, he gave handshakes and high-fives. He even signed someone's record. It was hard to tell if Perry was having a good time or not. The small crowd of less than a hundred people however, had just seen the show of the decade.
Roast Fish and Cornbread
Sun is Shining
I Am A Mad Man
War Inna Babylon
Critic's Notebook: I was completely worn out after this show. Like, I-just-drank-a-40-and-went-through-two-haunted-houses kind of worn out.
Random Detail: The last time I ate G's Jamaican Cuisine from a satellite location, I dropped my chicken leg on the ground. The only bite I got off it was so good, I might have picked it up if so many people hadn't been around.
By The Way: You can clearly hear the noise from the Sidecar that filters through that sliding garage door.