Midnite/Prez Brown | 02.29 | Oregon

By: Reanna Feinberg

Midnite and Prezident Brown :: 02.29.08 :: Ashland Armory :: Ashland, OR

Vaughn Benjamin - Midnite
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
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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[Published on: 4/2/08]

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moejoerisin Wed 4/2/2008 03:37PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


if you get a chance to see midnite, do it! some of the most intense, conscious reggae in the world is being made by them right now. lead singer vaughn benjamin is a haunting performer, to say the least.

windorascrub starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/2/2008 04:44PM
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Nicely written review! I love Midnite's music but can get bored when I have seen them. Your words were very visual and well thought. Again, great work.

hambone Wed 4/2/2008 05:25PM
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Wow I haven't heard of these guys before. I'm really excited to check out their tunes. Has anyone from So Cal seen Pysdecar lately? moejoerisin's comment about a "haunting performer" made me think of them. I saw Pysdecar on a visit out west. Been looking forward to some new music!!!

rjd999 Wed 4/2/2008 06:25PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I still am yet to see Midnite. I have been listening to them for like 5 years now, and somehow always miss them, I guess cuz it always seems to be like at least 3 hours away, but whatever, they are awesome. They are true, deep roots, and make not only very conscious roots music, it is very original. They work very hard too, I mean, in 5 years or so, they have made well over ten albums. Very busy guys. Prezident Brown on the other hand isnt really my cup of tea from what I've heard, a little more standard, but Midnite is the real deal if you dig on roots reggae.

Grateful Dread Wed 4/2/2008 07:24PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Grateful Dread

Another huge thumbs up/endorsement for Midnite. They are quite possibly the tuffest, most conscious roots reggae band out there today. I would put lead singer Vaughn Benjamin pretty high up on the list as far as vocal delivery goes. Midnite shows put me in a trance (the kind bud helps too) and take me to another place. I don't even have to think about dancing. The music just flows through me and I find myself swaying back and forth for 3 hours straight.

jesposito Wed 4/2/2008 07:45PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i wonder whats under that hat?

LTJFreak star Thu 4/3/2008 02:13AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

OK, a review a month after a show. Really?...

Although, I do have to say it is extremely well written, but a month later? Someone dropped the ball on this one. Not to mention that within the last month their has been an eternity of reviews to be had.

Lord-K. Thu 4/3/2008 01:11PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Midnite is the best live reggae band on have ever seen check em out when there come to your town and get educated

santacruzin Thu 4/3/2008 03:53PM
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i try to keep from trash talk, but i feel like something was missed by this writer. i agree w/ moejoe that this band is putting out some of the most intense and conscious reggae today. the intensity of vaughn can not be overstated. the man is focused and diciplined to the point of it being intimidating. i feel obligated to say though, as with anything taken to the extreme, there are drawbacks. being white myself and having heard how closed minded vaughn is about the goodness of any white person makes me question just how concious he truly is. the music and overall message are right on...vaughn's person beliefs are still up for debate in my book.

od3 starstar Fri 4/4/2008 03:40PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Despite poetic attemps to characterize a Midnite show, it would be best for one to establish their own opinion based on experience. What distinguishes Midnite and the greater Virgin Islands approach to roots reggae is certainly the pace of rhythms but also the lyrical emphasis on a trance-like repetative hypnosis. This is the "peaceful sedative" that Vaughn speaks of. "The world needs a peaceful sedative" perhaps to quell the violence and anger that exists in our tumultuous world.

Marley left behind his Redemption songs and we have grown to love reggae for its dynamism with paradoxically jovial melodies and bold messages of struggle. What Midnite does is progress the movement of reggae and challenge its association with "Babylon," which "we" undoubtedly represent. Through continuing to communicate the message of conciousness to the young white Americans who have ears for this music-- this is our act of reconciliation. Midnite's musical methods are deliberately coercive; it is a cultural identity that is deeper than our present scope. The western colonial relocation of Africans has created a venue by which these survivors can express themselves peacefully and beautifully. It is no wonder that this music evokes xenophobic mentalities when westerners hear the sounds of true roots reggae.

As active listeners we must demand this level of intensity and message-oriented lyrics in all the music we listen to and support. Unfortunately most music in the popular realm lacks this clarified artistic direction, if not shying away from writing words altogether, as do most bands in this "jamband" genre.