By: Reanna Feinberg
Midnite and Prezident Brown :: 02.29.08 :: Ashland Armory :: Ashland, OR
Midnite and Prezident Brown split the evening with very different forms of roots reggae that seeped out of Jamaica and St. Croix and into the little town of Ashland, Oregon. Technically the instrumentals for both bands were basic - simple beats and strums, deep and repetitive - that didn't inspire me on their own, but this was a different kind of music than the daring improvisational outbursts I'm accustomed to. Their brand of creativity poured into the larger experience, forming an atmosphere that shifted the general mood in the room. I had the distinct feeling that I was somewhere else. My mind saw daylight but the deep reggae drew me back into a heartbeat stew where I stood in the center of the Ashland Armory, like seaweed rooted to the ocean floor, swaying in a continuous wave. The music seemed to slosh between the building's walls. It was slow, patient, no tricks or devices. It was a cohesive musical undertaking - the pieces not as significant as the whole.
Both bands employed similar styles of streaming words together in a fast blur pumped continuously out the mouths of the lead singers. Inspiring lyrics blazed like fire over California's summer fields, raising the collective vibration of seaweed souls in the room. Sentences tumbled over one another as the singers let loose mouthfuls of alphabet soup spewed under the spinning tire of a semi-truck, filleting positive poetry over playful, mellow beats. It was a form of devotional music that spoke to a higher revolution of the human condition, of mind and spirit, of Jah and ice cream (one of the few words I was able to make out clearly).
Prezident Brown started the night with lively songs and powerful lyrics framed with clear endings over a swaying pulse of rhythm and bass. Besides playing simply great, high-vibed reggae music, Brown and his band explored the outer regions of their musical delivery system. A harmonica, fresh out of a tight blue jeans pocket, swam in their current. The keys played like a horn section on occasion, giving things a New Orleans marching band style kick-off. The bassist stepped up to take a solo at the front of the stage, and rather than diving into a wailing slap-a-thon, he smiled and played the same easy, mellow beat, and that alone was enough to command the stage. However, as a lead axe man should, the guitarist took a more standard solo.
Midnite's vocal style was similar to Prezident Brown for many songs but the feel of the music was very different. They made a statement with their dreamscape jams carried into easy lulls where they'd made a deal with gravity to work at three times its normal weight. It was hypnotic and made me want to sleep, if only for the quality of the dreams. The bassist smiled and leapt across the stage, adding a dash of spice to this mellow reggae vibe. The music was strung together on words carried by the wind. Long syllables streamed together, meaning still intact, but fed into the spinning wheel churning at 100mph it came out a full-on sweater, skipping the thread stage entirely. But, the words were there and a part of me heard them and sensed their potency. So, I swayed, palms open to the stage, hoping to absorb inspiration, to understand this positive expression without holding the solid words, taking this dose of reggae, trusting it's what the doctor ordered and required no prescription.
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