Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Showoff

By Michael Henningsen

AUGUST 4, 1997: 


Thursday, Aug. 7; El Rey Theater: Reggae, Jamaica's other best import, is either loved or hated. Despite being considered the roots of modern hip-hop and one of the purest forms of protest music, reggae has seen uneven popularity in the states over the span of two decades. In that respect, reggae is currently at an all-time low.

Black Uhuru, one of reggae's oldest and most respected acts, is a revolving band of musicians that has defined what reggae truly means (tribal dub paired with consciousness-raising lyrics) over the span of three decades. The first reggae group to have ever won a Grammy award (for their trademark song "Anthem" in 1985), Black Uhuru's longevity and ability to maintain its status in the reggae community has proven remarkable for a genre of music whose artists have in the past been financially eaten alive by the industry.

After first being formed in 1974 by Don Carlos, Garth Dennis and Duckie Simpson, the modern day Black Uhuru bears almost no resemblance to the original. Yet, as they have proved with the recent release of Strongg, a certain spirit has remained intact over the years that pushes reggae's limits. Among the musicians remaining in the band is legendary drummer Sly Dunbar (one half of the "Riddim Twins") as well as multi-instrumentalist Asha Brissett, bassist Bagga Walker and many others.

If you hate reggae or are either indifferent or ignorant of it, attending this show will be an enlightening (despite what's sure to be an extremely thick cloud of smoke) and educational experience. If you love it, then you know where I'm coming from.

--I.L. Flynn


Saturday, Aug. 2; Dingo Bar: Ben Lee is the proverbial eye of the storm. There's a certain calm about him that's almost unnerving. His simple, straightforward songs aim for the heart and almost never miss their mark. And Lee's music fits like your favorite old blue jeans.

Lee began his musical endeavor in the late 1980s with the Australian pop band, Noise Addict, and has progressed from what he describes as "... the perfect teenage rock thing," to a solo career that has produced some of the most thoughtful music around. 1995's Grandpaw Would, Lee's full length solo debut merely touched on the wide range of emotion and vast subject terrain that combine to make his latest record, Something to Remember Me By, one of the best of the year.

With guest musicians including the Beastie Boys' Mike D and Hole's Melissa Auf der Maur, Something to Remember Me By hints at Lee's rich musical background and varied interests. But still, his songs have an uncanny accessibility, the kind that comes with meaning and truth. The record is equal parts sadness, joy, contentment, humor and insight-- "It's like life," explains Lee, "all there is is what I offer." And this offering is one you shouldn't refuse.

--Michael Henningsen


Sunday, August 3; Dingo Bar: "California Tuffy," the first song on the Geraldine Fibbers' new record Butch, is about an 11-year old girl growing up in California, smoking cigarettes at the mall, where old palm trees are engulfed in flames and boys want more than conversation. Carla Bouzlich, the androgynous sounding vocalist of the California quintet, sings as much to the girl as to herself who was once like her. It is classic Fibbers. Bouzlich fronted the sex-disco performance band Ethyl Meatplow in the early '90s, and dropping her dominatrix outfit in favor of flowery print dresses, to sing in the Fibbers. On a series of loss-and misery-filled independent singles, a self-titled 1994 EP and the 1995 full-length, Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home, the Fibbers mined the vein between a countrified ease and the world of punk. Butch steps further into those jagged, choppy and cold avant-garde rock waters. As the current endpoint in a crooked line of releases, it is the most diverse and intense of the bunch. Owe it to the over-reaching presence of angular-sounding guitarist Nels Cline, who suffuses their music with strange and welcome musical textures. Live, they are a sight to behold.

--Kevin Klein

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