The Original Wailers
With the Resolvers
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The sharp growl of a clavinet highlighted a wave of ambience that seemed to part the dark red curtains at Revolution, revealing the now ten-piece Deerfield Beach band, the Resolvers. As soon as the full band was in view, all instruments simultaneously blasted off and a wall of sound swept across the room. Like magic, most of the sideline observers were instantly drawn down onto the dance floor, mostly filling the space, but leaving enough room for all to be comfortable. Reggae was happening.
The band was stunning, as a sight, sound, and feeling. Stage left featured a four-piece horn section dressed in matching white shirts and black ties, and stage right featured a pair of female vocalists, each dressed fashionably. In between was a Rastafied dude on keys, the bassist and drummer towards the back, and front and center was Ojay, the dreadlocked singer and percussionist, and Ron the guitarist, who also contributes vocals.
Of all the characters on stage, Ron was the first to grab my attention. He was dressed in hipster garb -- tight-ish pants, white striped grandma sweater, and Dylan-style Ray Bans. I'd chatted with him before the show and learned that he has a degree in music from FAU. He looked like a music student, but he did not look like a typical member of a reggae band. The image was refreshing. It not only sent the message that reggae is for everyone, but also that this was not a conventional reggae band.
The music was certainly reggae in feel, employing discernable roots and dub elements, but it was very dynamic as well in ways that lots of reggae music is not. Threads of Beatlesque pop, jazzy, big-band style horn arrangements, and wild boppy horn solos wove seamlessly throughout the thick, funky reggae grooves. As a round of solos towards then end of the set showcased, all the musicians were serious players, as well.
Thursdays show was only the second with the horn section and back-up singers. The first was the night before, across the street at Fat Cats. It's exciting to have this monster of a band in the area playing shows. They have been busy working on a record as well, which is another thing to look forward to.
When the Original Wailers took the stage I was initially bored in comparison to the presence of the Resolvers, especially since it wasn't the "Wailers" that I was expecting to see. The last time I saw the "Wailers," Family Man (Bob Marley's bass player) was on bass, there was a horn section and lots of other people on stage. This incarnation, called the Original Wailers, is a six-piece lead by Junior Marvin and Al Anderson--two guitarists who played in the Wailers Band (Bob Marley's backing band) back in the day. Neither of which though are actually original Wailers -- as in: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer. So, calling the group (which was formed in 2008) the Original Wailers seems to be a bit of a stretch and may even be offensive to some.
With that said, the band did seem to transcend the realm of nostalgia once they settled into their groove. They certainly brought a strong roots vibe to the people, which was appreciated. There didn't seem to be a disappointed face in the crowd. The set featured a few original Original Wailers tunes that will be on their forthcoming album such as "Justice," which was introduced with a rap about the situation in the Gulf, "Dangerous", and "Backslider". The latter was the best of the bunch, but as a whole the original songs were enjoyable but not exciting.
The majority of the set was comprised of Bob Marley sing-alongs. At first this struck me as being a bit lame, even though it was entirely expected. However, something happened during "Three Little Birds." It occurred to me that a sing-a-long is exactly what this was. And, what better songs to sing-along to than Bob Marley's songs of freedom? And what better band to host such a sing-along than this one (though I could've done without the long, indulgent guitar solos)? Bob was not on stage, but seemingly present. Through the songs, everyone became Bob Marley. His is a spirit and message worth keeping alive. In all, it was a lovely communal experience that took shape.
The highlight of the show was the set closing rendition of "Exodus". At the forefront of this delivery was Erica Newell, the female vocalist. Her fiery presence charged the performance. Her voice, and dance moves, were soulful; and when she shouted "Exodus!", she meant it with every ounce of her Jah-loving soul. As a relatively young woman, she embodies what "The Original Wailers" seem to be setting out to do: keeping the spirit alive.
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Better than: Listening to Legend again, dancing around by yourself in your bedroom like you're Bob Marley.
Personal Bias: I love those Soul Shakedown parties.
Random Detail: Revoltuion has opened up a new area on the ground level of the club. When one enters through the doorway leading to the area, one must first make it through a short hall of mirrors. Then, one enters a glorious secret room that glows emerald green. It is as if one has entered this room via one of those trick bookshelves from Scooby-Doo. In the corner of this room is another doorway which leads into the restroom. The restroom is standard except one of the two sinks is excessively fancy. Upon exiting, one will likely see a steady stream of people being blown away by their exceptional journey towards the pisser.
By the Way: The Resolvers have been posting a series of videos chronicling the making of their album on their YouTube page.