"All the Kings Men" 2 Tour 2008
After dinner at Skates by the Bay with Sspire, the COA transformative learning community, one of the core teachers, Kelly, and I, went dancing at the Shattuck Downlow in Berkeley. Now that was fun. Unfortunately, all the students except, maybe one, was under 21, so they couldn't join us and we didn't know of any other place in the East Bay outside of La Pena and Ashkenaz that might be appropriate. I called my younger daughter and asked her what was going on musically, and she recommended the Shattuck.
I went by the ATM and grabbed a few dollars. It would be the first time I went to the club for pleasure and didn't have a comp. The $15 cover charge wasn't excessive and although I didn't know exactly what I was getting into, I liked reggae music and knew I could go wrong especially when I saw Daniel who told me the line-up was impressive that night. The floor was still kind of empty. I saw Belinda, an artist friend across the room. I felt that if these people were in the house, it had to be good. The last time I was there, Belinda was my guest. When Kelly arrived and treated me to a drink (water), Mommed saw me and reintroduced himself to me. He used to see me often at the Malonga Center in Oakland, where I'd taken dance classes. I wasn't taking classes like before--my figure certainly attested to that, but Friday night dancing was a step in the right fitness direction--a recent spring resolution :-)
It had been a hot day...in the 90s and I was ready to cool off naturally. so there I was, waiting for Kelly in the dark, having had a fun conversation at the door with the brother who asked me for ID. I asked him, "Do you really believe I'm under 21?" he smiled and then wanted to stamp my hand. I refused and gave him an alternative, "stamp something else." He waved me inside with a smile. I like easy....
I found a place to set my purse where I could see it, took out my camera and sort of rocked in place, not quite dancing but clearly feeling the beat. It was my version of stoned yet sober. Everyone must have come in high, the only intoxication was alcoholic induced. The marijuana smoke was limited. I only caught one puff late in the evening when i moved all the way to the front of the house and bagan to take photos. (I should have pulled out my tablet... Can't remember a lyric this morning.)
The band played a set prior to the first singer, who was a member of the band. His name is "Tuff Lion," on guitar. He kicked off with a theme that was repeated throughout the evening, "love." His songs: Country Time and Radical Love were memorable.
I certainly agreed, radical love, a love that is self-generating, is what could save us all. Amiri Baraka said as much the previous week in his bopera, "The Sisyphus Syndrome," produced by EastSide Cultural Center. It wasn't about giving up, it was about loving the world and its most evil people bach into health--humanity. Jimmy Baldwin agreed, in his seminal work, The Fire Next Time--two essays: "My Dungeon Shook" and "Down at the Cross," as did of course Martin King. Folks are killed for less. Love as a political agenda is unpopular and risky.
Perhaps this is what is meant by "love can kill." Perhaps love can kill evil? Well guns and violence are certainly not working-- I saw someone videotaping...he should send a copy to the world leaders.
After "Tuff Lion," "Luv Fyah" came on. His set included songs: Newstar Born, all Mighty, time Traveler, What a Blessin, Ethiopia I Belong, Coming from the West, Bobby Dem Creep, High Road Way. Belinda told me about this brother, who had a chorus line of one...waving the Rasta flag--that of the Lion of Judah, as he sang. I was too far away and didn't get any great shots of him on stage. I was just digging his music which was great.
He was followed by Army whom I didn't know, but certainly want to know more of. Smooth pretty black skin, dressed in all white, he rocked the mic...with his consciousness. "All the Kings Men" did. Not only could I understand them, I wanted to hum their words into the night...I felt healed...cleansed, freed with such positive energy.
Army's set included, War Mongers, Yesterdayz News, Fire City, Butterfly, Share Your Love, Honor Rebel, Contrary, Rocky Road. When he sang, "News" he connected to the killing of youth on the streets today by police, a recent killing just this past week. He sand "Contrary," a capella or maybe it was "Road." I forget.
I was like, yeah, this is certainly the answer. Why don't more people know? The leaders are few and we're many....
David Morrison closed it out: "Love Come and Go, Jah Run Things, Lil'Green, Made 4 Me, Sufferer, Love Has Found a Way (cool remix), Do for Budi (a cool freestyle on What you won't do, Do for Love, you try everything...), African Princess Intro...End of Time, Change A Come (a capella), Wicked Development (Binghi).
Morrison whom I'd seen with the Abyssinians ran onto the stage full of energy. He like the others sang a capella -- as he freestyled...taking familiar R&B songs and changing the lyrical content. He also played a little on the drums. He was awesome and then all the men came back and they closed out the evening about 2 a.m. with War & Crime or maybe that was just Morrison's encore :-) I think they might have ended with "Promised Land. Whatever it was, it was positive. As I said, I wasn't taking notes if i don't write it down....
When I asked the saxophonist for his set list, he said he needed it. "Oh this is happening again, like tomorrow night?" He nodded yes. I was like, okay, and took the drummer's set list instead of copying his three pages of notes. The drummer's was typed and I figured he could print another one from his computer. As soon as I put the saxophonist's list back, he hurried onto the stage to snatch his copy.
As I hurried into the darkness, with my sheet...before the drummer could grab me, I laughed. It was a great evening and a great way to begin a weekend celebrating the legacy of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz.
(Photo credit is all mine, c/o my little digital Canon. The emcee from KPFA reggae show had on this striking image of Robert Nesta Marley. I had to include the shot. Send me his name and when his show airs and I'll add it to the piece. I've tuned in before, I think it's called Reggae Express.)