Lucky Dub - I realize the redesigned Red Palace stage is bigger, but eleven members makes a crowded stage and they also have a twelfth guest vocalist about half the time. The instruments include drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, sax, trumpet, trombone, congas, keyboards and two backing vocalists. With all that instrumental power, they do whip up a frenzy. There is not a lot of intricate playing with most of the solos coming from either trombone or trumpet. However, the rhythms are strong as they do the usual dub thing of putting together reggae, soca, R&B, ska and whatever else they want to into energized songs. They kept a great attitude throughout and the positive energy easily made its way to the dance floor. And by the second song, the crowd outnumbered the band and eventually grew to more than 30. The positive vibe was there and made it feel even bigger in the room. Strong 45 minute opening set here.
Elikeh - This is the first time I have seen this local band at the top of bill. Previously, I have enjoyed their excellent support for Vieux Farka Toure a couple of times. The 40 plus here tonight showed that they do have the workings of a deserved local following who were willing to come out on a Wednesday night and enjoy Elikeh's brand of African-rock-roots music. The singer/rhythm guitarist is from Togo, although he has been in DC a while and has assembled some other African, US, and local musicians into a tight little unit. They are nine strong and have similar instrumentation to the first band, with the brass section as two saxophones (and one guy also switches to flute and percussion). The percussion is powerful and intricate with the kit drummer wailing away as the conga player punches away in the gaps. The guitar work is crisp, keys solid, bass playful and the brass players chip in creatively. The music is more intricate than that of the opening band, but is just as danceable, catchy and fun. I even got a chuckle how their song "Get Ready" had an intro similar to Yes's "Roundabout". Fortunately Jon Anderson was nowhere in sight and the song rocked out in its own groove thereafter. I see this band will be playing opening night at the Capital Fringe Festival this year. Hopefully this will help grow their audience as I see nothing fringe about this band. They are the real deal and we are fortunate to have them in DC.
Promos... I am a big fan of theater and subscribe to three different companies and visit several more on a show by show basis. There are a couple of bands I have enjoyed that are employing theater with their music that are worth checking out. Presto Bando will be at St. Stephens on June 18th debuting "Fabuelonna: A Soccer Tale". Also Stripmall Ballads will be dusting off their giant puppets and bringing back "The Perfect Pipe Bomb" to St. Stephens for two nights, July 22nd and 23rd. I hope people support these productions, as you get great music and excellent visuals and storylines.