Lee "Scratch" Perry | 6.10.07 | Philadelphia

Words and Images by: Jake Krolick

Lee "Scratch" Perry :: 06.10.07 :: World Café Live :: Philadelphia, PA

Lee "Scratch" Perry :: 06.10 :: Philly
Thick spiraling clouds covered our section of earth in an ethereal layer. The echoing horns and reverberating bass of heavyweight Dub drifted up to street level from the basement of the World Cafe Live. Dub Is A Weapon was already on stage dropping a dastardly beat. Their skunked out sounds quickly heated our surroundings as if we were in a giant chillum being puffed alive. The evening was in direct competition with one of the biggest television show finales ever as the Soprano family ended their 6th season reign of power. If Tony Soprano had left the Bada Bing for a few hours to take in this scene, he would have been treated to the ubiquitous Lee "Scratch" Perry backed by the brilliantly polished Dub Is A Weapon.

Dub music evolved out of 1960's Jamaican reggae and is characterized by a stripped down sound typically derived from an existing pieces of music, usually absent any of the original vocals. Its freaky tweakings are created with intense reverb and echo effects. If the Dub stew called for more spice, the musicians tossed in a bob and weave dance with an occasional peppering of lyrics from the source material. The intimacy of this craft created a stir as the crowd lapped up Dub Is A Weapon's demonstration of musicianship. Larry McDonald held down percussion duties while preaching the gospel of "Live Dub," as he so eloquently described it. His heavy hand on the skins were paired with a soft manner and constant smile at our growing numbers. Ben Rogerson stood tall thumping the bass through "Code Name." He stepped back into the shadows letting Dave Hahn walk us through guitar and sampling solos. The band tossed out multiple nods to their new sax player, Maria Christina, who blew the low and high notes away, leaving knees quivering and creating that eerie feeling old bones get before it's going to rain. Her soaring peddle-fed sax ripped through "Fever," leaving the crowd with mouths agape.

Lee "Scratch" Perry :: 06.10 :: Philly
Dub Is A Weapon charged ahead with overstated rhythms and a spiraling undulating sound that literally forced you to move or loose your balance. Strange sounds slowly coagulated together and formed song amoebas. Hahn tweaked the turntables, between guitar strums, just long enough to throw our dance rhythms off. The crowd resembled charmed snakes moving to the band's every whim. "Turbulence" rounded out the evening's performance as they revisited a simmering guitar riff layered with McDonald's steady beat. Christina's sax playing acted like a late cab to the airport, bobbing and ducking bravely between the beats. They finished the set as it began, with a room drowning in reverb.

Lee Scratch Perry has become a kind of portmanteau figure - people have packed their own fantasies into his life, creating a legend. He emerged with Dub Is A Weapon wearing his classic wild garb. From head-to-toe, he proudly displayed the red, gold and green colors of Rastafari with more than a few lions of Judah protruding from his body. Perhaps the most unusual accessory was his gold colored work boots encrusted with trash and treasures from around the globe. He carried a curled-lip smirk of knowledge that was decades in the making. Their was no denying that the main attraction was the original Upsetter himself, Rainford Hugh Perry; a.k.a. Lee, Little, King, Scratch, Super Ape, Wonder Man, Ringo, Pipecock Jackson and many others.

Larry McDonald :: 06.10 :: Philly
Lee Perry has led a turbulent life, from his many successes at the destroyed Black Ark in Jamaica to his current White Ark location in Zurich, Switzerland. Perry first sprang onto my radar from a friend who described his peculiar methods of recording such as using samples of animal sounds, babies and rain, blowing ganja smoke onto the tapes while they rolled, shooting pistols and breaking glass in his unique productions. He started his performance with a raised fist and a much more powerful approach than one would have expected. As Perry strolled back and forth across the wide arc of the stage, his red dyed hair poked out from a bedazzled hat. At the start of each song he would preach from some magical spring of knowledge. He went off in small bursts of song that often let the tempo or tonal nuances of his voice wander playfully. Hahn and McDonald were clearly schooled in Perry's style and knew they couldn't push one of reggae's most radical sorcerers. So, they laid intricate backgrounds down that easily adjusted to his rambling form of magic.

At seventy-one years young, Lee Perry hopped and danced around the stage in a slow groove. His past performances have both disappointed and thrilled. Sunday night's shakedown with Dub Is A Weapon was a spectacular example of the latter. Perry sang of life and love and a lot about pussy. In fact, he said "pussy" in every form from Pussy Cat to Queen Sheba's Pussy. When he abruptly switched to talking about cock, we were caught off guard. However, it all made sense as he launched into "Pussy|Cocky|Water."

Dub Is A Weapon :: 06.10 :: Philly
Perhaps the kinky Upsetter's best known work is his productions for reggae's good son Bob Marley. The two shared good and bad blood, but held together long enough for musical alchemy. Together, they produced early Wailers classics like "Small Axe," "400 Years," "Duppy Conqueror" and many others that changed the course of reggae and laid the foundation for Bob Marley's subsequent success. Some even believe that it was Scratch who actually invented reggae. The show breezed through a few notable renditions including a version of "Kaya" that rode straight out of a spaghetti western soundtrack. Perry's high-pitched vocal cries blended well with the choppy bass and reggae guitar. He tossed water over his back and into the crowd as he began to preach about the cleansing effects of his piss before stepping to the back of the stage to pull on a wizard cap. Perry emerged with a fiery look in his eye and sang Panic in Babylon's "Inspector Gadget 2004." His whine turned to a falter as the bass took hold of his legs and he kicked and leapt around in its cavernous pocket.

Lee "Scratch" Perry :: 06.10 :: Philly
Perry's first job was with pioneering record producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and his soon-to-be-legendary Downbeat Sound System. It was a rare treat when Perry invited one of Coxsone Dodd's close friends on stage that was in attendance at the World Cafe show. The two exchanged hugs and a few hidden words before Perry passed over the mic. Coxsone's friend reminded the audience where Perry's famous nickname came from. He told the story of how Perry made his first recording, "Chicken Scratch," in 1961. While it was a speck in Coxsone's sound system universe, it did provide Perry with his legendary and lasting nickname.

The Upsetter certainly lived up to his nickname, and by the time he had fully warmed our spirits he was shaking hands and singing, "Goodnight." Perry's reign and hold on reggae is as well known as any of the Seven Wonders of the World. Just when you think you know what he has in store, he pulls the proverbial wizard cap over your eyes and lets you see and hear things in a new dark light.

Check out "Lee Scratch Perry is a Weapon" from this show...

JamBase | Philly
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[Published on: 7/20/07]

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The1AndOnlyDJCT starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/20/2007 11:33PM
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I saw them in NYC, the show was incredible, Lee "Scratch" Perry is the man!

birkenjam starstarstarstarstar Sun 7/22/2007 05:56AM
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if you ever have a chance to check this show out, please do so. scratch is hands down most forward thinking and influential character in the history of reggae and dub, and being how its not the 60s anymore, adding the new-wave twist of DIAW as his backing band makes for a unique chicken scratch experience.

cuttyfives Sun 7/22/2007 05:42PM
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i love reggae

karacter0 Mon 7/23/2007 08:04AM
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This is SAD!!! Only 3 comments all weekend?

Thanks for the article. I didn't even know that Scratch was still alive and touring. I vow that I will catch one of his shows while he is still around.

Why does the shitty white reggae like SOJA get all the support on JBase? Thanks again for the article, this community needed it greatly.

nuke_ticketbastard starstarstar Mon 7/23/2007 09:07AM
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saw dub is a weapon a cpouple / few weeks ago , w/out scratch
not sure what the deal was the place was practically empty , nobody was dancing at all
first time i have seen them , they were pretty cool , not really impressive though , i guess maybe w/ scratch added in it must be a little more of a show , not that it was'nt fun... i got to talk to larry mcdonald and he was really nice and talkative....

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/23/2007 09:27AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

mentioning the RACE of a reggae artist is bad mojo.

why? bob marley would NEVER say, oh, dem white guys should not be playing reggae. granted it can suck, thats fine. say it sucks.. but DO NOT say because its black or white or whatever, the color is not the issue!!!!!!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/23/2007 09:28AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

I love LSP. :)

karacter0 Mon 7/23/2007 09:37AM
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white reggae is just a label. kinda like jamband. What I really mean is non-Jamaican. I hate it when these shitty bands fake an Jamaican accent, it is proof that these bands are fakers.

If a white band was born and raised in Jamaica I wouldn't slam them for playing crappy reggae/faking the accent ...and Scratch is no stranger to bad mojo (stole a bunch of Marleys early recordings and sold them).

Is that better now? ...non-Jamaican instead of white

toestothenose Mon 7/23/2007 10:52AM
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Karacter0 - just curious - what do you think of Peter Rowan's Crucial reggae project w/ the Burning Spear horns?

karacter0 Mon 7/23/2007 11:11AM
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never heard it. not too familiar with rowan. he's the bluegrass guy i saw at appalachain uprising bluegrass fest last summer, right?

bottom line: you won't hear me complain about him because he doesn't make a career of fakin' Jamaican. Just one album isn't a problem. I bet he doesn't do any of that "praise Jah" crap on the album.

aunt beru Mon 7/23/2007 03:31PM
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aunt beru

lee perry is the master. it is an honor to see this guy. just for the fact of what he has done to dub and reggae. catch him on friday the 27th at the house of blues in anaheim. opening is delta nove. a show not to be missed.

toestothenose Tue 7/24/2007 06:01AM
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Rowans Crucial Reggae project is truely a wonderful take on raggae 'non-Jamacian' or not...

sample some - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=15382

Cleofus Tue 7/24/2007 07:42AM
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for crucial Lee Perry check out the 3 cd Arkology box set. --

karacter0 Tue 7/24/2007 11:09AM
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I was at a festival, heard some great dub playing on a radio, then asked about it. the guy me it was scratch, but he recorded the album under a fake name.

anyone know scratch's alias? (not the upsetter, i know that one)

dubisaweapon Wed 7/25/2007 01:13PM
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Greetings all...Dave Hahn from Dub Is A Weapon here wanting to interject a few things:

*Ben Rogerson is the rhythm guitar player; my man DAN JESELSOHN is the monster bassie we all know and love.

*I don't play turntables. I rely heavily on a simple 16 channel mixing board and three guitar pedals to create the dub atmospherics.

*Scratch's most bizarre alias has to be "Pipecock Jaxxon", which he used in the 80s. I haven't asked him about that one yet... :)

And finally...

ANYONE can play ANY kind of music, whether they are black, white, hispanic, asian, eskimo, martian, klingon, vulcan, etc. For some reason people feel compelled to talk about race when they talk about reggae bands - a review of our last show with Scratch in Philly proclaimed that Dub Is A Weapon was a band of "five capable young white guys and one black contemporary of Lee Scratch Perry". Another blog posting referred to us as being "88.3% white".

I think this is just a reflection of every music fan's hope to experience an "authentic" performance of the music they are hearing. So naturally people would gravitate towards wanting to see Jamaicans playing reggae - that's where the music was invented, where the music is intertwined into the everyday life of the island. But there's always another way to think about "authenticity". What I want to see are musicians performing music that they truly believe in and respect, rather then musicians that are just playing whatever music they think is going to get them over.

nuke_ticketbastard Thu 7/26/2007 12:19PM
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word dave , good points , 88.3% white????? what kind of fukstik writer would print that in a blog / review whatever
anyhow the klingons did put a pretty mean twist on industrial rock back in the 90's but have not heard much from the outer reaches lately....peace

richfood starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/26/2007 07:57PM
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right on brother!

toestothenose Fri 7/27/2007 07:54AM
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Nice - glad I revisited this. Dave sorry for the errors it really appeared that you were working a turntable on stage. My mistake! Thanks for the feedback and send the Live Dub train rolling back through Philly sometime soon.

Jake Krolick

bobbydougal starstarstar Sat 7/28/2007 02:55PM
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saw lee scratch last night in anaheim. it was alright. i truly enjoy lee's catalogue and i listen to it alot, but i was sort of dissapointed by the show last night. granted the man is aging but i didnt hear any of the songs i was hoping. a lot of the songs sounded like he was making up words as he went and then he started repeating himself in songs. the backing band, dub is a weapon was pretty good but nothing rediculous. solid yes, and the sax pretty much owned the show. it seemed like standard reggae music without crossing any boundries. it was cool to check out a pioneer like perry but it wasnt what i expected

dubtafari starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/26/2007 07:03PM
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Although I n I am comming late to this conversation, I n I must say this....

it is obvious to the I, that many of those who posted their comments know very litle about either Reggae, Rastafari, or The Mighty Upsetter and his

Black Ark studio. If such were the case, one would know from history,

No ONE just plays behind the Upsetter. One must first go through Lee Scratch Perry himself. ( ask Chris Blackwll) How do you think he has managd to survive for so long, especially, in such a place as violent as Jamaica. Lee Pery burned down the Black Ark to save his life from pirates and the hordes of vampires that surrounded him and litterally stole all of his master tapes during such time. If any one is comming from the constricting American race bag, then they missed the whole point.

(Like the scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time).

Lee Perry reformed the Wailers(Peter,Bunny and Bob) into the powerhouse they became while taking the Upsetter's rhythm section in return.

(the Barrett Brothers).

If Scratch chooses the band of his liking it is defintely for a reason.

Before Scratch burned down his studio, gunmen came into his home to take back Bob Marley's session tapes. With the cut throat business of Jamaican music who knows what this man has had to do to survive as long as he did?

And to think, after all these years and the advent of Rastafari and Bob Marley there are still Crazy Balheads amongst us who may never see the light even if it hit them in the face at a Mighty Upsetter concert.

Give thanks and praise, Jah live, I-tinually,