Reggae hit town in a big way last week. Thanks to the folks at Club Mercy, SOhO played host to two of the most legendary names in dub music. On Thursday night, the Ariwa Sounds crew-rolling deep with Mad Professor, Macka B, and Dennis Bovell-invaded from the U.K. And less than 48 hours later, the original Upsetter himself, Mr. Lee “Scratch” Perry, paid a visit from outer space to deliver a mind-melting, jam-heavy performance that will not soon be forgotten by those who came by to watch.
A mild gathering of the well-informed and blissfully ignorant turned up Thursday for the Mad Professor show. A onetime pupil of Perry’s, the Guyana-born Professor put on a show at the controls, bending the sounds and beats of Lovers Rock and roots reggae to new heights by adding loops, twists, turns, and echoes with a flick of the wrist. If not versed in the technical sorcery of dub music, it would be easy to be confused by the full and improvisational sound coming from the speakers and the lone, headphone-less figure hunched behind the turntables. Added to this were the vocal stylings of a decidedly beardless Dennis “Blackbeard” Bovell and, later, the legendary Macka B, allowing the Professor to deliver a virtual lesson on the various moods and incarnations of reggae music. From deep dub and dance hall to ganja-flavored roots, Thursday night had it all. (That is, unless you happened to show up again on Saturday.)
There is no one of more importance in the world of reggae than the self-proclaimed madman Lee “Scratch” Perry. With a resume that links accomplishments like inventing dub music, bringing reggae to the masses, and producing Robert Nesta Marley, with an undeniable pattern of public bridge burnings (literally: he once set fire to his famous Black Ark Recording Studio) and mental meltdowns, the soon to be 73 years old Perry is an all-out creative force.
For more than two hours, the pint-sized Perry-decked from head to toe in scrapyard rasta bling-bounced around the stage, delivering slightly tweaked Marley covers (“One Drop,” “Sun Is Shining”), as well as his own tunes from the recently released The Mighty Upsetter. Of course, there were the drum ‘n’ bass-powered psychedelic rants that blurred the line between music, exorcism, and spiritual redemption. During the latter, Scratch informed us over and over that, “God is a baby,” adding, “Without our past, we cannot enter our future.” And, for those shaking their asses and waving their arms in approval, it was clear that Perry was delivering just that-a little reminder of yesterday so we can all find a better tomorrow.