Last Night: Groundation at the Culture Room


With The Beautiful Girls 
and Stampede Movement
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Review:

With a young local group, and a couple of well-established groups from distant lands, Sunday's encounter with Groundation at the Culture Room was a reminder of the local artists and SoFla community at large of how high reggae can get. While the local Stampede Movement played early on, Ron Eisner from Deerfield Beach reggae band the Resolvers pointed out four other area reggae acts within the decent-sized crowd supporting their fellows. It's great to see that kind of community-oriented attitude, as well as the more general enthusiasm for reggae. And, of course, it's great to see world class acts travel down to our spot on the peninsula. 

From Northern California, Goundation's nine-piece tribe had an energetic approach to playing roots reggae, which set a free-spirited tone. With roots grooves as funky as anything you'll hear, they expanded the grooves into sometimes blaring, sometimes spacey jazz jams. Their stage presence is inviting as well. In fact, at one point early in the set, charismatic frontman Harrison Stafford addressed all the first-timers in the room: "you are welcome."

Stafford's fresh voice and distinctive singing style, made for a joyous presence onstage. To Harrison's left was the soulful female duo, who offered leads, harmonies, and contagious dancing throughout the show. Behind the three singers was the rest of the pulsating crew: bass, keys, horns, drums and percussion. Their big sound was poignant and understated with no gimmicky reggae costumes or over-reliance on effects and samples. Their reggae isn't so much infused with jazz as it allows room for jazz playing. They did both well and transitioned naturally from one into the other. The feel was at once artistic and spiritual. Throughout the course of their generous set, the energy never waned. The longer they played, the thicker the sauce became, and the crowd melted right in. 

The Beautiful Girls were a long way from their home in Sydney, Australia when they took the stage before Groundation -- yet they were far from being strangers. Floridians greeted the Aussies with a familiarity with their material, which is on the poppy, Jack Johnson-esque side of the reggae spectrum. The crowd chimed in for several sing-a-long moments during the poppy tunes, and boogied away during the stretches of instrumental dub grooves. The band delivered a solid and fun set which included "La Mar (the Ocean)" dedicated to all the surfers in the room, and a well done dub cover of Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight."

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Indeed, a funky, reggae party was achieved Sunday night with Groundation, and there is now surely a great deal of inspiration in their wake.

Critic's Notebook

Better Than: Attempting to prepare for the work week by staying in. Sunday night reggae jammers prepare the soul for the work week.

Personal Bias: It was love at first sight for Harrison's beard and the back-up singers.

Random Detail: In between bands a DVD of a Michael Jackson concert was played. It was a great call. The majority of the crowd stood quietly mesmerized by the moon walking etc. for the duration of the intermission.

By the Way: For those planning a trip to the Caribbean for Labor Day weekend, Groundation is scheduled to play a free show on "The Beach" in Cabarete, Dominican Republic on Saturday night.

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