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Monday, September 29, 2008

Decibel BBQ

posted by on September 29 at 10:43 AM

Havana%20BBQ-2%A9%20Brian%20Geoghagan.jpgSun Tzu photo by Brian Geoghagan

Saturday’s Decibel in the Park may go down as the single coolest event of this year’s fest—not necessarily the best sets, or the wildest party, but just a really great time. In similar spirit, but with sunny parking lot asphalt instead of grassy lawn, was Sunday’s Decibel BBQ. Hosted by Sun Tzu in the Havana parking lot, with chicken or brisket (and sides) for sale along with drinks, the event was a fine way to ease into another day of Decibel (in fact, the one complaint I heard at Decibel in the Park was that there should have been food vendors). It was sparsely attended for Kid Hops’ enthusiastic set of sunny dub—after some weakly realized “whoa-oh-oh/yeah” call and response Kid Hops asked over the PA if Dixon had really killed it so hard at the previous night’s afterparty that we all just couldn’t even talk. Basically, yeah.

The place began filling up a bit for Caro, though. I hadn’t seen Caro (aka Randy Jones) for a while, and either he’s become really impressive in that time or I just wasn’t paying close enough attention before. Jones played lightly buzzing electric piano, a miniature analogue synth (Yamaha CS-01 for the nerds), and laptop. He sang in an overdriven, slightly clipping funk croon. He built rhythmic loops out cowbell, shakers, and his own ohs, ahs, grunts, and exhalations. As one breakdown gave way again to a thumping beat, he deadpanned, “C’mon now,” to the slowly warming, moving crowd. It was a great set, combining a touch of Jamie Lidell’s vocal tics and live looping with Matthew Dear grooves. He played some new stuff, and apparently he’s at work on another album; based on today’s performance, I predict that record will be ace.

Next up was Jeremy Ellis, wearing a pale yellow cotton suit and a black leather cap out of which emerged a long red ponytail. Make no mistake, Ellis has some fancy fingers when it comes to the MPC, tapping out busy improvised break beats and drum fills with real skill, as well as summoning up samples and bass and melodies. It was like watching some savant playing Simon. I’ve previously praised local ER Don’s facility with the ubiquitous sampler, but Ellis is in an entirely different league here (although the bit where Ellis plays the MPC with his chin just doesn’t look as bad-ass as, say, playing guitar with your teeth—sorry). That said, every time he got on the mic to do some ska scatting or sing a pinched, “soulful” version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” I wanted him to stop. Technically, he’s tuneful and skilled on the mic as well, but his style there is just not my bag by a long shot. Still, the music was fine, ranging from soul bounce to loping reggae loops to a drum filled finale that sounded like he had the entire JBs and James Brown in his sampler, which he very well may have.

Sun Tzu did their thing next, combining funky house with live congas and the occasional spot on the mic with the kind of easy skill that has made them an institution around here. It was a perfect way to wrap up the BBQ—breezy, fun, and groovy enough to get the crowd loosened up for the night’s big finale at Neumos.

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