Words by: Martin Halo | Images from www.myspace.com/thisisboomboxcom
BoomBox :: 06.07.08 :: Rocks Off Cruise :: New York, NY
Touring in support of Vision of Backbeat, BoomBox is developing a sound that rings true not just within the jam community but in the transcendent dance world of clubs as well.
|BoomBox by Christian James|
Consisting of Zion Rock Godchaux, son of Grateful Dead alum Donna Jean, and DJ Russ Randolph, they approach music from the mindset of seasoned musicians and talented producers. For Godchaux, he grew up a child of the Dead in the Bay Area before eventually exploring the hypnotic nature of San Francisco's seductive underground rave community, while his counterpart's musical upbringing was very different. Randolph is a native of a vibrant artistic community buried within humid Alabama who went on to do production work for Los Lobos and Chuck Berry. Together they are putting forth an eclectic fusion of lick-based grooves and nightclub friction.
With a schedule that will keep them on the road until the fall and a forthcoming new album, the duo arrived in New York for a midnight voyage on the Rock Off Boat Cruise. Rocks Off books gigs that give audiences an alternative to stuffy rooms by pushing audio equipment onto party boats that scour the Hudson and East River.
Adding an extra element of comic relief to the proceedings was an inner city prom preparing to leave in the boat slip directly next to us. The hip-hop and jam communes find a common level of expression and understanding within a dank stench of euphoric decadence. With boarding at 11, the Half Moon Cruise Boat blew its horn for departure at midnight, and the three-hour tour around the eastern tip of Manhattan proved to be an all out dance party. Godchaux is a character; as he sported a feathered, American flagged top hat, psychedelic vest, tinted glasses and a masterful, overgrown Fu Manchu moustache. With the lights passing by his head, his guitar ignited the hip shake. "It is about the funk," Godchaux said in a spirited pre-show interview.
|BoomBox by Gary Barber|
With the Half Moon passing under The Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, the music carried on. Beautiful, curvy hippie girls in long skirts grooved in sweet gyrations to the thump of Randolph's vinyl-flavored backbeat. There were no breaks in-between songs as the set melted into one continuous track that showcased little snippets of recognizable covers from the quick hands of DJ Randolph. "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson was one of them, joined to their original "Stereo." Adding to the party were several long, heavy rolls of the boat courtesy of the wake from larger vessels crossing through the shipping lanes along the Statue of Liberty.
In this atmosphere of raw musical improvisation, what stood out was Godchaux's guitar work. At some points, the man needed to reconnect to the telepathy wavelengths being exerted by Randolph but his off-the-cuff playing remained interesting throughout the duration of the set.
In true jam scene fashion, audience members strutted about in flowers, and on this particular evening, there was a gentleman in a protective bike helmet. The whole night I was thinking to myself, "Dude, if shit is going to go wrong a life preserver might serve you better." That was until after Godchaux said goodnight, thanked the crowd, and bike helmet weaning gentleman, almost on cue, collapsed over the monitor, knocking down the microphone and spilling into Godchaux's lap.
The Half Moon returned to the dock at 3 a.m., under the loom of the Empire State Building, dark and silhouetted. If you haven't had the chance to experience BoomBox in a live setting yet, you're encouraged to go for a ride.
Here's a film reel by Chris Casiero
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