Toots!

23 07 2009

Last night a friend and I saw Toots And The Maytals at the 9:30 Club. Toots & the Maytals are a reggae and ska group. I was first introduced to their music through the fantastic movie, The Harder They Come, a movie set in the slums of Jamaica about a musician who tries to make it big. It stars Jimmy Cliff.

(Here’s a preview trailer of the movie. You should watch this movie, if only for the music and culture.)

Anyways, Toots & the Maytals are a really fun, energetic band and I’ve grown to really like their music. The concert last night was no disappointment. The band came on stage asking the audience if they were ready for the pressure to drop, referring to their popular song, Pressure Drop. The second song they played was my favorite song of theirs, Pomp & Pride which I can only describe as sounding extremely happy…

The concert was full of plenty of their other hits too, and the crowd really seemed to be enjoying this release from the work week on a warm, Wednesday night. A funny thing to note about the music played last night was that for the most part, all of their songs were to a standard, mellow reggae beat. But the last few minutes of basically every song was sped up and turned into a ska rendition for only a few measures. It was fun, but it also got predictable. I was hoping to see Toots preform his popular, 54-46 Was My Number (which the 90s reggae band, Sublime covers nicely), but they never did it. (I assume they may have done it during an encore.) Unfortunately my friend and I had to leave before any encore was done, since the Metro was coming to a close.

The audience was such a surprise. I was expecting a mostly black audience, given this was a not so known reggae group and we were in a not so great part of the city. But to our surprise, the audience was probably 90% white. It was shocking. Toots  and his band took a while to start their show, and I joked to my friend it was because they were uncomfortable playing to such a white crowd and that maybe they were waiting for more blacks to show up. I feel like when most people think of reggae music they only think of Bob Marley. Other than Bob’s music, reggae didn’t really sink into the United States and get popular.

My friend and I were joking the whole night about how white the crowd was. You can be white and not act so white. Many of last night’s concert-goers were unaware of this. And it’s ok to be white when you are, in fact, white. But it just stuck out like a sore thumb at the 9:30 Club last night. It was almost embarrassing to see our race so disturbingly represented. A common sight last night were audience members at the stage, “fist pumping” with Toots. Yes, they were all white people doing this. Couldn’t this also be somewhat offensive to blacks? There were also a few instances of very white styles of dancing, which when seen next to the few blacks there who really knew how to move; was quite a funny sight.

And while the whiteness of the audience was overwhelming and bizarre, it was also kind of pretty cool, too. Like I said, I don’t know of many people who know or like of Toots & the Maytals, so the fact that there were so many (white) people who came out to see the band, means that this band really is that cool. It means that reggae is that great of a summer genre of music. It means that reggae might be making a come back. It means that I was mistaken by the band (and music’s) popularity.

Also, a great addition to the island, Jamaican feel of the night, was that the bars were coincidentally serving Red Stripe and Corona beers. Nice!

(Sorry for the blurry photos. That’s what my camera does, when you’re not allowed to use flash!)

kind of blurry

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