In it till the bitter end!

In ozstraylia, tunnnneeeee! on April 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Gilles is playing big tunes and Mannings bar where the people politely queue up to get served at the bar, none of this free for all of lunging, lounging, leaning we get in London, just orderly lines stretching away from the bar, is feeling it. The bands about to hit the stage and I’m wondering how many people will bail once the main act ends, and won’t listen to what Gilles has to offer afterwards.

As Sofia says I’ve paid my money and I’m in to the bitter end, till the lights go on and the beer goggles truly come down.

As I wait for the band to hit the stage I am realizing that I am strange fruit wherever I go. I got looks when I was in Japan, but got harder looks when I was in Melbourne. Not inquisitive or curious like in Japan, but more appraising and startled. In Japan it was Why are you here looks, in Australia it is What are YOU doing here looks. Not sure whether it’s because I’m black, obviously a cyclist, I do wear my cycling cap at all times pretty much, or both.

On a cap note my favourite cycling cap the green gatorade one, the plastic peak has snapped on me and now I’ve got to be especially careful otherwise I look like a bit of a gimp with a crooked bent peak. Upset to say the least! Hoping to get a sugar spokes cap to compensate and hopefully when I get to the states I can find someone to repair it, cut out new bit of plastic, unstitch peak take out old broken plastic, replace , stitch back up, piece of piss.

With the orchestra in full eleven man flow you get a sense of what Fela in his pomp would have been like, thick basslines, soaring Hammond organ solos and the horn section waiting to pounce, fierce and sharp. Two lines of musicians, rhythm section and horn section two stepping, side to side as they pump out funky riff after funky riff, riff sliding into riff, and everlasting jam session.

Antibalas are to afrobeat what the Breakestra are to funk, students who become philosophers and teachers and the prime exponents of a music which has fallen away, but which they reinvigorate and remake and sculpt into a modern form.

It is a sight to behold, and I am stepping forever and I am in love with their horn section, so emotive and passionate, slurring, bending, twisting notes as they solo, then pin point precision as they punch through in unison. Transitions between songs are seemless and untraceable, as the band are feeling the heat as well, shirts soaked with hard earned sweat, brows are mopped, water bottles gulped at, clung to, before their instrument is gripped tighter.

As I look at the stage to my right, the horn section three different sizes of saxophone plus a man on trumpet, drummer with a six piece kit, four drums, high hat and snare, in front of him, bass player, laconic, laid back fingers moving but nothing else, Congo player and singer, with some Cow bells attached, man shaking some rattling gourd, two guitarists, one of whom sings a couple of Latin numbers, and finally the organ player, double decker of Hammond and korg.

Audience participation is hackneyed and overrated most of the time, but the Antibalas make it a special and cohesive thing, pulling the audience in with their versions of call and response, it is a pretty thing to behold, the intensity of the band, and the eagerness of the audience to be a part of that, so easily turned into a meeting of the musical minds, and everyone keeps dancing, as the bright horn section, squeal and squawk and sharpen notes in the night air.

So the Antibalas are blazing, yet two thirds of the audience bail as soon as they exit stage left, leaving Gilles to play to the committed music cognoscenti, I’m classing myself as one of them by the way. It’s weird to see Gilles trying to hype a space because the lightweight massive of Sydney pulled the cord early. But those that stayed that are in till the bitter end are jigging for all they are worth and Gilles is playing Brazilian Jesus arms outstretched head looking skyward, music is all. At the end the dancefloor is filled with Brits abroad appreciating the big tunes being thrown, and those that dance, which is all of them, close their eyes and swing their heads, stepping into a brighter tomorrow, fueled by the bass that drives out of the speakers and punches them in the gut…

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