Easy Star All Stars with Dubconscious, State Theatre, Falls Church, VA- 9/21
New York based Easy Star All Stars made their mark by re-interpreting Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in a Dub Reggae Style, giving a mass of stoners license to re-visit some of Pink Floyd’s material that they’d probably heard many times over. I don’t arbitrarily mention stoners, signing East Star’s e-mail list on this tour doubled as an entry to win a Vapor Brothers brand vaporizer. Easy Star All Stars recently approached Radiohead’s OK Computer for their sophomore effort, with the same musical influences that went into Dub Side of the Moon and birthed Radiodread.
I heard the first live public Radiodread at this year’s All Good Music Festival in WV and catching word that they were swinging through VA with an opening band I’ve never been disappointed by (Athens, GA’s Dubconscious), I decided it was necessary to catch a few stops. Although this review focuses on the final date of their East Coast run, I also saw day two of the tour at Charlottesville, VA’s Starr Hill and both of these 2 to 3 hour drives were more than worth the effort. Starr Hill was so muggy we were sweating before note one, but it didn’t stop anyone from dancing. Alex Beram, most recognized for his work as a member of John Brown’s Body was acting tour manager for Easy Star All Stars on this leg of the tour and came out for a guest spot (djembe) with them at Starr Hill. He did the same during Dubconscious’ set at Falls Church, playing congas during a tight cover of Tenor Saw’s “Ring the Alarm.”
Dubconscious is a socially and environmentally conscious, predominately-Reggae band (Adrien Zelski’s vocal rasp a definitive sound), with a Dub influence locked into their jams. Recently the group has started to incorporate Afrobeat into their material and with such gigs as the opening spot on this tour, Dubconscious’ movements are certainly upwardly mobile.
Easy Star All Star’s take on OK Computer is pretty great, especially since some of the songs must have been hard to convert, stylistically speaking. Their sets started off with material from Dub Side of the Moon before digging into Radiodread track by track. Bassist Ras Iray and guitarist Junior Jazz share vocal lead duties. Some of the more exciting moments came when Menny More jumped out to deliver vocals in an energetic chat style, countered by the cooler and less explosive (not intended to imply that it was less potent) vocal delivery of Tamar Kali. The horn section of Jenny Hill (tenor sax and flute) and Buford O’Sullivan (Dub is a Weapon, trombone) are consummate musicians, oozing butter-smooth melodies. As a whole, there probably isn’t a better lineup than the one Easy Star Records matched together for this effort (hence their name). As proof of the catalogue of musicians the label has on call, newcomer Jahred took over keyboard duties for Jeremy Mage on the final night of the East Coast tour, with the aid of some sheet music, but anyone seeing the band for the first time wouldn’t think twice. Drummer Ivan Katz is a beast behind the skins and his smile evidences the joy he brings to the throne.
Following the Radiodread tracks, the band came at us with some of their originals, ending the night with plenty of music for the ticket price. This tour leg over, the Easy Star family was shifting west to continue the tribute, and even if kids are just coming out for some re-interpreted Pink Floyd, they’re going to go away having heard some great originals from musicians that can seemingly do it all. I’m looking forward to an Easy Star All Stars tour of all original music, whenever that happens.