Things To Do

Review: Easy Star All-Stars at Culture Room

It was a nice night for some reggae grooves at the Culture Room. Young folks stood in a short line out front as Cas Haley, from the Easy Star label, sang soulful, solo acoustic tunes. His voice made his music. Little did I know that was to be the theme of the night—amazing voices and beautiful vocal harmonies.

Haley called out The Green’s drummer, Leslie Ludiazo, to bang the djembe on a couple tunes. One was a fun rendition of the blues classic, “I Got My Mojo Workin’.”

Ludiazo’s band, The Green, is an up-and-coming reggae act out of Hawaii. They’ve been accompanying Easy Star All Stars for a string of shows while on their continental U.S. tour. They also won the best reggae album of 2010 on iTunes. Needless to say, this was no dinky reggae act.

After a couple tunes with Ludiazo, Haley called out the rest of The Green for one of the smoothest band transitions ever. The Green came out and played the Police’s, “Walking On the Moon.” It was a great version, with a rootsy depth the Police version sacrificed for a more rockish sound.

Haley bade the crowd goodbye and left The Green onstage to do their thing, and they threw it down. Performing their original music, there were a good number of folks in the crowd who had never heard them before. But their grooves infected the first timers as easily and naturally as the reggae-shocked cover tunes that were to come later on.

Once again, what stood out were the voices. With four talented singers, The Green managed to pull out some beautiful three-part harmonies and still have their lead vocals. The result was that full reggae sound Bob Marley got with his backup singers.

The Green wrapped it up at around 10:30 p.m., but not before inviting Cas Haley back onstage, sans guitar, for another number.

Meanwhile, security was working hard to keep us concert-goers safe from the big bad druggies. They tossed out a young girl in a pink tie-dye for what seemed to be smoking marijuana. She maintained that she doesn’t smoke, but naturally, they paid no attention. If it really was for smoking pot, it was a silly show of authority, considering the bands playing. At least they got the little girl, though. Too bad they missed the truckload of other folks toking up inside or that one guy fresh off the Furthur tour pushing doses. I guess that’s why they’re working security at a club and not working for the DEA.

For those fortunate enough to avoid ejection, the main attraction of the night took the stage at about 11 p.m. Easy Star All Stars didn’t take long to start dipping into their deep list of beautifully arranged cover tunes, the first of which was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

The club was a tight squeeze by the time Easy Star came on, much tighter than it was for the opening acts, and every person in that squeeze seemed to know those lyrics. Easy Star followed “Sgt. Pepper” up with “With a Little Help From My Friends.” There’s something universally appealing about the Beatles’ music, and when Easy Star sets it to reggae, it has a way of setting the party ablaze.

They played a few more tunes from their tribute, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Dub Band,” mixed with a few tunes from their brand new original album, “First Light.” The title cut was an excellent indication that their new album, just released on April 5, is a goodie for any rudie.

Midway through the set, they shot us to the moon. Their Dub Side of The Moon medley was a treat to get down with. They performed from Breathe all the way to Time, with some fresh drum solo during the “On the Run” dub.

After “Time,” they shifted gears again and dove into my personal favorite tribute of theirs, Radiodread. Easy Star played the sexiest version of “Climbing Up the Walls” I have ever heard, courtesy of sultry vocals by Kirsty Rock. The crowd must have agreed, because she got one of the loudest roars of applause of the night.

Easy Star also gave us some “Electioneering” and a great version of “Karma Police” ending in a heavy dub.

They tied off the set returning to The Beatles with “A Day in the Life,” featuring some interesting dissonant dubs during the interlude and at the end.

On that note, Easy Star left the stage, but the audience wouldn’t leave. They shouted and hollered and chanted “Easy Star! Easy Star!” until one all-star, guitarist Shelton Garner Jr., walked onto the stage alone.

He picked up his guitar and led the crowd in a soul-stirring sing-along of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” complete with lighters in the air.

Afterwards, the rest of the band rejoined Garner and played a ska version of Radiohead’s “Let Down,” followed by an extended version of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” featuring dubbed out sax and trombone solos drenched in delay.

It was on that note that Easy Star gave their final goodnight. The crowd dispersed into the parking lot, some folks sticking around to buy some merch and meet the bands in the patio.

Brotherly Love Productions out-did themselves with this show. Big ups to them for putting this funky reggae party together.

It was a nice night for some reggae. And everyone left with their fills.