Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dub Colossus at the New Empowering Church

Aha! the New Empowering Church! Those illuminated orange palm trees are familiar: it was about a year ago that I played here at one of the Park Road Pilot shows. What a wonderful venue- still warehousey in a gentrified London Fields, and tonight the gathering-place for Dub Colossus' multicultural audience.
As I walk in, Mykaell Riley, Dubulah and the journalist Robin Denselow are chatting.
Robin's book, Now the Music's Over, has been on the prescription list of Dr Reddington for many a year and it was heartening to see his support of this collective of musicians.
You know, I have known these people for 30 years. Mykaell made us laugh as he told us about telling a young un' about supporting Bob Marley, and having to backtrack as he saw the look of horror on the young un's face as he made his age calculations.
He, Dubulah and gentleman bass-player Winston Blissett (more on that particular genius later) were in a band called Bumble and the Beez, whose single Fools is one of my all-time favourite tracks. The Beez featured Mykaell on vocals, cowbell and bass drum, Winston on bass, Dubulah and a guitarist called Dan on guitars, and the wonderful Simon Walker on fiddle (he later did a stint with Dexy's Midnight Runners and played the occasional gig with Herbie Flowers). Actually, time has treated the trio rather well: Mykaell and Dubulah look exactly the same as they ever did, and Winston is now sporting a very neat goatee.
From the position of this strange line-up, Mykaell once told me, 'You must have a lot of guts to get up on stage with just a guitar and a horn section'. Ha ha!
There is still an audible thread of that band today, largely due to Winston's extraordinary bass lines. He is completely distinctive as a bass player, living as he does in Winston World: in Winston World the ground shakes as though a herd of massive elephants is marching across the savannah, while a groove hits your chest and send endorphins flooding into your system. At one point during Stop in the Name of Dub I went for a comfort break and the entire ceiling of the Ladies was rattling along to the subterranean rumble; I laughed out loud! He stands back, serenely aware (as all bass player are) that he is actually in charge although there is a whole band in front of him. Next to him, his twin soul-brother Dubulah stands, serenely aware that he is actually in charge although there is a whole band in front of him.
This has always been a very funny phenomenon with these two. There is not a hint of aggression; they are just each sure that they are the boss: it's just that nobody else realises.
Tonight, at clutch of horn players in pith helmets (watch that trombone slide, Mykaell!) stand to one side, shuffling their sheet music between songs as horn players do. Mykaell introduces them, gleefully: 'The lovely... I don't know what they call them'. He's on form as he checks his microphone: 'Checking... chicken...', he muses.
There is a drummer, a percussionist and a keyboard player, and a beautiful woman co-singer whose voice blends magnificently with Mykaell's. At times, I hear shades of Black Uhuru, and at others, such as the poppy Crazy in Dub, you can imagine daytime radio play. And all the while, the drums and bass drive the songs forward leaving space for the delicious fillings that the others spread across the sound field.
From the food stall, the smell of curry goat wafts over and I turn round to see the staff dancing along energetically. If the cooks like it, it must be good!
A camera man with a gigantic camera on a skinny tripod perches precariously on a tall box, looking like one of the examples of what not to do that they showed us at work at the Risk-Assessment Training we had last week. I decide not to look.
Suddenly, I think I hear Hank Marvin on guitar. It's Dubulah, with a cheeky smile, throwing the sixties into the mix to see if we notice. Then it's Duane Eddy...
'I BEG YOUR PARDON', chorus the horns, bossily, and the groove grooves on.
The audience is gleeful and boppy, responding with responses when the call goes out from the stage. This is Not a Dub Song starts up, and as one we dance along to the rhythm: sugar shaker, sugar shaker, sugar shaker THWACK! I want to learn how to play all these instruments and play them all at once! Soaring sax and guitar in unison chop the rhythm into pieces before the trumpet blasts the song into the stratosphere.
The festival vibe hit chilly London Fields last night; the band were in their element as they came on stage for the encore, a scorching version of The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum that features some ultra-low parps on the trombone that would challenge an ocean-liner's hooter for assertive power.
Unfortunately I left before the last song had finished, having parked my car in the one remaining dodgy street in London Fields; but I bought their CD Dub Me Tender

Today, I am nursing a case of deep bass thrombosis and looking forward to the next gig by this pioneering band who stretch dub to its outer limits and beyond.

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