I have always been obsessed with rhythm; that driving rhythm that comes from all music, from all over the world. That beat is the heart of all humans, the dance of all our spirits. That beat is in us all and we can all understand it, it is a language of love and life. I found a new beat that gets my heart pumping and my soul shining.
I hadn't heard much about the Antibalas before this show but I had heard them when they did the backing for FELA on Broadway, a musical based on Afro-beat innovator, Fela Kuti and I knew I had to see them as soon as possible. My love for Afro-beat and world music, in general, has only grown over the years. I have every Fela and Manu Dibango album there is and their sound has influenced me in so many ways. They are only a few bands out there even capable of making music like this nowadays and the Antibalas is the top echelon. From the first few beats, I knew this band was exactly what I needed and had been looking for. I had never been able to see any Afro-beat live and I was not disappointed, rather I was entranced.
Washington D.C. seems at turmoil with itself, like a hungry beast lurking in the darkness, waiting to consume us all, and gnaw at the bones. For some god-forsaken reason we parked in a federal building. After a thorough inspection of our car and airport like security, we were permitted to park the car in the parking deck for 15$, Thanks so much. Let's just leave it at; government employees can be the rudest people on our planet, the bureaucracy and the politics aside, if you are unhappy with your current employment, do all in your power to find something new. This is only one of many reasons why I stay away from D.C. most of the time. I've had some shows planned up there for the future but this experience has me thinking that it may be too much trouble to get in and out of the city. D.C. must go on without the Jam Band Purist, at least for a while; I'm sure it will be fine.
This was my first time attending a show at the Hamilton and I had no idea what to expect. The workers and staff were very friendly and extremely nice but I would have upgraded to seats had I known the layout was like the Copacabana or something. I wasn't sure if I had walked into a comedy club or restaurant. The standing room was literally in the aisles, with a super small strip in front of the stage. I tried to stay upfront for the show but was immediately squeezed out by annoying debutantes and bobbling bureaucrats. I stayed in the back all night, getting bumped about by staff and patrons alike. The Hamilton is not conducive to a concert environment. The sound was impeccable and all credit goes to the soundman for keeping up with so many instruments but I felt jolted from my experience many times throughout the night. The Hamilton could be a great medium sized venue. I don't go to live music to sit down and have dinner, especially not with the Antibalas getting down so hard. I go to shows to dance and let out some of my pent up energy. The Hamilton may be having an identity crisis. Dinner theatre was not what I had in mind.
Afro-beat-funk-jazz is the ultimate Jam music; it's fluid and ready to move anywhere, at anytime. Afro-beat is full of improvisation, while still adhering to the traditional jazz standards in which it is rooted. Much like American Jam bands, Afro-beat is a blend of different types of music and cultural influence from Northern Africa and while you don't really think of them as Jam bands, they totally embody everything I love about Jam music. The fact is there aren't many bands in America capable of doing what the Antibalas are doing. The Antibalas also seemed to lead the charge with current events and political statements, mixed into their lyrical content, which is one of the important aesthetics taken from traditional Afro-beat developers.
I very rarely go to a show where I am not constantly taking notes on my phone for my reviews. I watched the Antibalas not only transfixed by songs like, "Dirty Money" or "Rat Race" but I couldn't stop dancing to the music, as if I was a madman. The intensity with which the Antibalas bring forth, is unlike any other band I have ever seen and you'd be hard-pressed to find a band doing Afro-beat with such perfection.
As the night progressed, I was continually blown away by the sound and musicianship of the Antibalas, minus the constant barrage of employees and wait staff, I don't think I stopped dancing until the last song was over. I met with some of the band members after the show and they were gracious and polite. To be quite honest, I think they might be one of my new favorite bands. I haven't stopped listening to them on Spotify since the show and I am anxiously anticipating their next tour. Hopefully I will be able to see them in a larger venue with adequate boogie space. More when I see them again…
Jam Band Purist
WARNING: The views and opinions expressed on this site may not be in conjecture with your own. Be Advised
Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.