Irving Plaza

Picture Show: Ozomatli @ Irving Plaza

Ozomatli @ Irving Plaza – February 3rd, 2011

Jam bands tend to try and be a little bit of everything to everyone. And a lot of the time they just fall flat as pale imitators. Hip-hop acts tend to recognize their “roots.” Sometimes this comes off as phony; just another way to try and gain “street cred.” Last Thursday evening at Irving Plaza, there was a party goin’ on. Sly would have said that at moments, it was worthy of a riot. But what exactly was being played? I’m still not totally sure. But I know one thing: Ozomatli rocked the house making a cold Winter Thursday night feel like a “Saturday Night.” And the audience in attendance could have cared less what type of music was coming from the stage.

[All words and photos by Marc Millman]

According to Wikipedia, in a 2007 NPR interview, band members Jiro Yamaguchi and Ulises Bella described Ozomatli: “You drive down Sunset Boulevard and turn off your stereo and roll down your windows and all the music that comes out of each and every different car, whether it’s salsa, cumbia, merengue, or hip-hop, funk or whatever, it’s that crazy blend that’s going on between that cacophony of sound is Ozomatli, y’know?” And if you dance your way through one of their almost two hour sets, you will see that this is the perfect description. The band has varied in size since its inception in 1995. Thursday night’s shows featured seven members that included the core six found in every incarnation.

Over the course of an 18-song set, the band bounded from rock to soul to funk to reggae to hip-hop to cumbia and back again. One really did feel as though they were making their way down Sunset. And while Asdru Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar) and Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion) led the band through their paces, the crowd got a taste of all sorts of genres. But never without a bit of rock to smack your ass while you were busy shakin’ it.

READ ON for more of Marc’s thoughts and photos on Ozomatli…

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God Street Wine Ends Run on High Note

I woke up this morning wondering if what I’d experienced over the last two weeks was real or just a dream like the eighth season of Dallas. Just as quickly as the God Street Wine reunion came, it’s over – for now – as the NYC-based quintet finished the four show run with a scorcher at Irving Plaza this past Saturday evening. These four shows were the rare case of reality living up to the lofty expectations thrust upon this reunion after nine long years of silence from the GSW camp.

[All pictures by Mike Wren]

Friday’s lack of jams was remedied by an improv-filled first set featuring lengthy versions of Driving West, Hellfire and Imogene which showed off the band’s impressive non-verbal communication that comes from playing hundreds of shows together during the ’90s. While last weekend’s minor-key Hellfire jam was on the dark and dirty side, the Irving version went the other direction: a major-key round of improv filled with light and beautiful melodies – a butter jam if you will. Both guitarists got equal time to shine during this most memorable jam of the run. The tight rhythm section of Dan Pifer (bass) and Tom “Tomo” Osander (drums) propelled their band mates to glory in the Hellfire jam like offensive linemen clearing the way for the star running backs.

Irving Plaza, NYC
July 17, 2010

Set One: Nightingale, Driving West, Better than You, Hellfire, The Ballroom -> 6:15, Feather, Straight Line, Imogene

Set Two: Good Dream, Snake Eyes, Princess Henrietta, Strange as it Seems, Tina’s Town -> Cheap Utah Blues -> Deep Drag, Diana, Borderline

Encore1: Ticket to Ride, Sweet Little Angel

Encore2: Other Shore -> Into The Sea

Seven sets into the action God Street Wine were still dusting off old songs they hadn’t played yet. Lots of lines hit home in the reggae-tinged Ballroom including “the dancing on the floor has begun,” “so many years have gone by since I looked into your eyes” and “I feel so old” – all of which received huge applause from the attentive crowd. Two of the first-time in ’10 tunes on this night were Feather and Diana off the quintet’s self-titled 1997 release. Feather, an anthemic rocker, was equal parts Tom Petty and Black Crowes and stood out on a night filled with stand outs. Diana also had that rootsy sound typical of songs on the self-titled LP and shined thanks to gorgeous harmonies, Jon Bevo’s electric piano work and Maxwell’s slide work.

When listening to some of GSW’s later material like Diana and Feather and comparing it to the early material such as the prog workout Deep Drag, it was crazy to hear how much the group’s sound had changed in just about seven years. You can only imagine how many different phases of evolution the band’s music would’ve gone through had the original lineup been able to stick together through the ’00s. Yet, this weekend wasn’t about focusing on what might’ve been and was more about enjoying what was.

READ ON for more on God Street Wine at Irving Plaza…

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