Bearded men, women in patchwork skirts and others grooved to the muy caliente beats at the High Noon Saloon last night. Body odor, sweat and hints of nagchampa filled the room like a guest, mingling amid perspiring bodies and sublime smirks.
With any luck, the Middleton high schoolers who didn't buy prom tickets spent their allowance money on the Antibalas concert, where they could dance 'til the free love shot out of their ears (and other orifices they've yet to discover).
Antibalas' goes back 10 years and has grown into a fascinating blend of rhythms from across the world. The raw flavors of sunshine upon the jungle and the concrete were brought together in a sweltering blend of Afrobeat, dub, salsa, funk, jam rock, Harlem jazz, and more.
Songs did not just sound "nice." "Beaten Metal" was like the score to a Brazilian spy movie where the gods of thunder battle bad guys in white linen suits and sunglasses. Explaining or categorizing with mere adjectives would be a disservice to the music.
The flailing arms, jumping torsos and bobbing heads made it difficult to count how many men were on stage. With so many instruments -- from saxophone and bass guitars, to hand drums, keys and cymbals -- it was nearly impossible to nail down. The final count was 12 -- yes, 12 men crowded the stage to make these bombastic rhythms: one keyboardist, one percussionist, one shekere player, one kit player, two guitarists, a bassist, two on trumpet, two on saxophone, and one bass player. Crap, there was someone else -- another saxophonist! (I think.) Like I said, it was kind of wild in a major way.
Every player contributed, but there were definite standouts -- not to mention that some individuals were lost to the dark corners of the stage. Leader Amayo (percussionist and vocalist) performed in a trance, his face painted and pants shimmering. Saxophonist Stuart Bogie was also noteworthy, calling the shots from his side of the stage with wild fists and shouts of exultation.
By creating an environment wherein music moves the body and touches that nerve of joy, Anitbalas indeed proves bulletproof to anything but peace and harmony.