In it's pure, island-bred, form reggae tends to make pretty poor sing-along music for white people. Sure, "Buffalo Soldier" seems like a good sing-a-long, given it's perfect pace and easily learnable lyrics, but when push comes to shove, in trying to mimic Bob Marley's accent the average white suburbanite ends up creating a scene only slight less offensive than Mickey Rooney's turn as Mr. Yunioshi, the Asian landlord, in Breakfast at Tiffany's. The rub, of course, is that most white-people made reggae (and ska) sucks. A lot.
It is for this reason The Aggrolites, who played Tempe's Clubhouse Music Venue last night, draw crowds wherever they go. It's white reggae, sure, but it somehow manages to not come off as ridiculous as a bunch of Babylonians playing music associated with a religion which, at times, has held their race to be evil, should. Oh, and it's perfect for singing along to, which the crowd showed.
Playing to an adoring crowd of Band Camp type punks (with a few skinny suspendered, and/or cabbie hatted die-hards thrown in), which started chanting "Aggro" right after the local opener, 2 Tone Lizard Kings, finished their set, the Los Angeles band was poised to succed.
The first song, the mid-tempo "Mr. Misery," (complete with stellar "heeeeey" choruses) didn't do anything to slow the momentum and after the second song, "Funky Fire," singer Jesse Wagner had a sweaty glow. By "Jimmy Jack," the rest of the band was sweating through their matching short-sleeve black dress shirts and slacks. The crowd matched the band's zeal, and their effort, and, before long, the oniony smell of sweat lingered over the crowd.
The anthemic "Someday" was another highlight, the crowd yelling along loud enough to mix right in with the amped instruments. And they didn't sound the least bit ridiculous.
Last Night: The Aggrolites at The Clubhouse in Tempe.
Better Than: Drinking a Red Stripe and listening to a Desmond Dekker -- though that's pretty great too.
Personal Bias: Definitely Peter Tosh over Bob Marley. Not even close.
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Random Fact: The band calls it's music "dirty reggae," but it's really too fast to be traditional reggae, though the band obviously wants to avoid the "ska" stigma, for good reason.
Further Listening: "Don't Let Me Down."
By The Way: I remain impressed by the 2 Tone Lizard Kings, who I praised before the Arizona Strong Beer Fest in Mesa, and who sounded great last night too. Probably the best horn section in town.
One More Thing: I have to admit I left part way in to the encore. I rarely do that, but I had to be ready the start of a loooong week.