Ozomatli feat. Chali 2NA, Sol*iLLaquists of Sound
Club Firestone Orlando, FL March 8, 2009
by Phillip Haire
Having missed Bad Brains perform with H.R. over the years, tonight was my chance to close the void and witness a truly pioneering band do what they've been doing for nearly thirty years. To further enhance the experience were opening acts Sol*iLLaquists of Sound and Ozomatli, who brought along Chali 2NA, now of Jurassic 5 fame.
I was glad to have arrived in time for local (Orlando) hip-hopsters Sol*iLLaquists of Sound. A unique quartet whose sound DJ DiVinci calls "F.A.H.E.E.M.," which stands for Free Astral HipHop Extraterrestrially Energized Message. S.O.S presented a unique, conscious set, balanced by the two female vocalist/rappers Alexandrah and Tonya. Front man Swamburger busted out rapid-fire lyrics from the As if we Existed release, plus new single "Death of the Muse," which also featured Chali 2NA laying down some vocals and setting us up for his set with Ozomatli. DiVinci busted his own innovative moves behind the mixers, tweaking sounds and beats, then proceeded to showcase some break dance moves -- impressive for such a big guy! I now see why Franti & Spearhead have picked them up to tour as openers.
Also highly energetic and entertaining, Ozomatli hit the stage with their signature percussion and horns in a groovy, Latino flavor. As Raul Pacheco said, "we're bringing music from our backyard to you." The reuniting of Chali 2NA with the band made for an even more special performance as they busted out several classics like "O Le Le," "Cut Chemist," and "Afterparty." Ozo brought Sublime's "April 29, 1992" back to life with a twist of lime for extra flavor. As another highlight I had never seen in previous shows, the entire band went down into the crowd, on the floor, and jammed unplugged! Then, in traditional Latin style, formed a line and continued playing as they snaked through the crowd, and out of the building. Now, that's an exit!
The show could have ended there and I doubt anyone would have left disappointed, but we're talking Bad Brains here, so the excitement level only escalated. Now I've always heard you can never be sure which H.R. you're going to get on any given night. This night we got a somewhat confused, demi-god-like figure who delivered vocals with hands clasped in front of him, with no real movement or emotion. He initially left the stage several times to hang out, returning at his leisure. Add to his already interesting behavior, the wardrobe -- consisting of a blue dress/skirt thing with boots (he made it a point to show us), and vest/jacket combo for the upper half. Round it out with sunglasses and several briefcases, satchels, and bags he brought to stage that served no apparent purpose, and there is your lead singer profile for the night! Oh yeah, and they did play music, with many of their standards included.
Early into the set we were treated to "Sailin' On" and "Regulator," which both sounded great. Dr. Know's guitar work hasn't slipped over the years, nor has Earl's percussion, or Darryl's casual basslines. While the acoustics were great, H.R.'s vocals were a bit low (perhaps intentional?). Yet on the reggae-inspired tracks "Jah Love," "I & I Survive," and "I Luv Jah," the sound resonated beautifully. Bad Brains used a workman-like approach to move through the songs with a little banter from H.R. here and there. Although I don't know what the hell he was talking about, he seemed to amuse himself and remained seemingly happy. The set continued with "Banned in DC," "Soulcraft," and "Pay to Cum," finishing with a single encore, "I Against I." I had hoped for a bit more from the Build a Nation record, which I believe is phenomenal. We did get a couple: "Give Thanks & Praises" and "Universal Peace".
After the countless shows Bad Brains have done over the decades, I'm glad they are still out there sharing the vibe that has, and will, endure for generations to come. Thanks to Club Firestone for their assistance and the crowd for a great vibe throughout the night! Keep sailin' on...