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Pickabar goes to the VP Records 25th Anniversary Party

On Friday Phil called to tell me he’d gotten two free tickets to the VP Records 25th Anniversary Concert
at Radio city Music Hall
. I’d never been to Radio City before, I love reggae, and I love free stuff so I was in before Phil had finished asking me if I wanted to go. I was a tiny bit drunk, and I wasn’t music nerdy enough to bring a notepad with me, so here’s my somewhat hazy recollection of the proceedings…


“Young, Gifted and Black” was written by the late great Nina Simone, but the reggae version Bob and Marcia is the version I’m most familiar with. Phil and I were both psyched when Marcia Griffiths hit the stage to sing a duet with her son. The song didn’t do much to impress, but come on it’s Marcia Griffiths. On stage. In front of us. How hot is that?

The most educational part of the night was
Elephant Man’s
set. I don’t own any of his music, but I’ve heard “Juke Gal” and “Pon the River” on the radio and they were catchy if forgettable. Seeing him live was a whole different ballgame. I’m not a hardcore dancehall fan by any stretch, so this was my first time experiencing some of the crowd participation dances that are super hot in Jamaica. Basically, the DJ yells out the name of a dance and everyone in the crowd complies. Most of the dances seem to just be hand and arm motions, but the crowd went nuts for it. Unfortunately, the only dance that seems to have stuck in my head is the “Scooby Doo”, so I’m probably still not ready to hit the dance floors of Kingston.

Do you remember the very first Dave Chapelle Skit? The one where he felt guilty for using his mind powers to cause a ahem wardrobe malfunction? I didn’t feel the least bit guilty when my burgeoning psychic powers had the same effect on Lady Saw’s skimpy top. To her credit she didn’t seem the least bit fazed, and she made some sort of off the cuff quip that amused the more patois knowledgeable part of the audience. I guess a certain degree of immodesty is to be expected from a queen of “slack” dancehall like Ms. Hall, or any lady wearing an almost not there top at that rate. Fun stuff, and entertaining music, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy her greatest hits any time soon. She also did a freestyle response to Mario Winans’ song “I Don’t Wanna Know” that was pretty humurous if forgettable.

I was really impressed by the T.O.K. performance. My friend Ray gave me their first album a while back and practically threatened my life when I hadn’t given it a listen a week or so later. I wasn’t impressed at the time. Their brand of oddly cinematic Dancehall (imagine Jamaican epic metal or something) has started to grow on me though, as I’ve heard an occasional song while shuffling through the collection. For some reason I was under the impression that T.O.K. was made up of a Wu-Tang-like gang of DJs, but it’s only four guys. I wonder where I got that idea? They did their notorious anti-homosexual song “Chi Chi Man”, which was pretty surprising as they seemed like they were trying to distance themselves from the song during their previous appearance on the Hot 97 morning show. I don’t fault anyone for having a politically incorrect viewpoint, but it seems pretty hypocritical to try covering up that viewpoint for crossover success. Oh well, who am I to judge? Lyrical content aside, it’s a pretty hot song.

The biggest crowd reaction of the night was definitely for lover’s rock hero Beres Hammond. While I can appreciate his talent, lover’s rock is probably the only type of Jamaican music I’m not into. I actually dosed towards the end of his set, but I’m sure that had a lot to do with the drinks and sitting still for so long.

There was an after party, but Phil and I decided to skip it and head downtown. I guess that’s where this show review ends. I saw a few other artists, but I don’t have anything insightful to say about them, so I’ll leave that to the professional reviewers.

MSN’s preview of the anniversary show.

p.s. The absolute worst part of the night was finding out that Sir Coxsone Dodd has passed on May 4th. A huge loss for anyone who considers themselves of Jamaican music, even dancehall fans who wouldn’t consider listening to anything on Trojan Records. Half of the dancehall songs I’ve ever heard were based on classic Studio One hits from the 60’s, even if he never received credit for those contributions. Oh yeah, he also gave Prince Buster, Bob Marley and Lee Perry the starts to their careers. Not too shabby. Here are some links that I really hope you consider visiting:

Jamaican Observer: ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd is dead
Trojan Records: Coxsone Fan Tribue
The Guardian: Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd