Originally published on September 27, 2011
The Aggrolites and Peelander-Z :: 09.15.11 :: Slim’s :: San Francisco, CA
If you’re in the market for a top shelf reggae experience, you really have to check out an Aggrolites show, most likely coming soon to a city near you. The self-proclaimed ‘dirty reggae’ Los Angeles group just set out on a national tour, and the San Francisco show was explosively good. The Aggrolites rocked Slim’s and everyone in the pre-weekend crowd was magnetically drawn to the stage and danced the night away to the band’s infectious reggae beats.
|Peelander-Z @ Slim’s by Annelise Poda|
The opening act Peelander-Z was crazy to experience, and that’s an understatement. Their set started as an eruption of distorted chords with one of the guitarists hanging upside down off the second floor railing in the back of the venue, madly playing guitar until he jumped to the ground. The rest of the band was equally insane. The lead singer was a strong voiced balding man that had dyed his remaining hair yellow (beard included), complemented with yellow fishnets. The drummer was dressed all in green, and the guitarist was all in red, both with as many eccentric punk accessories that they could muster. Their fourth member was a small woman in a pink speed-skating jersey – complete with spandex hood and oversize sunglasses – that scurried around the venue with a spotlight and a suitcase of percussion instruments for the audience.
|Peelander-Z @ Slim’s by Annelise Poda|
Because their outfits were so wild, I didn’t fully notice until they started talking that the whole band was from Japan. For some reason, their extreme set made a bit more sense after figuring that out. It was like watching the music version of a Japanese game show. Peelander-Z held up signs with the names of their simple-structured punk songs, which made it easy for people to yell along, as the song titles were often the only lyrics. The songs were about very random topics, such as “Mad Tiger,” “Ninja High School” and “Taco Taco Tacos.” They music went on in conjunction with their other antics, which included human bowling, making audience members play all their instruments, and walking straight at the crowd with a giant rope, forcing everyone to limbo under it. You could not avoid getting involved if you tried, and I thought it was a hilarious thing to do with an audience. Forced participation is pretty amusing for everyone involved, and this band did a great job of getting people riled up for the night.
|The Aggrolites @ Slim’s
By Annelise Poda
The Aggrolites started playing to an already excited audience, and they pushed the energy in the room up to even higher levels. The band originally formed in 2001 when legendary Jamaican singer Derrick Morgan needed a backing band for a studio project. The cream of the crop of the L.A. reggae scene assembled, and their tightly wound and highly skilled instrumentation is impossible not to notice. Each of them effortlessly locked into the groove pocket created onstage. The band’s vintage organ puts out amazing clear tones that mesh well with the guitar accents. These sounds bounce over huge, steadfast bass lines intertwined with harmonizing, vibrant vocals, and it all comes together in an amazing groovy way.
Every song the band played was a hit with the audience, but the ones that had interludes for audience sing-alongs grew the energy and camaraderie in the room the greatest. During “Someday” and a cover of The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” lead singer Jesse Wagner had the audience pushing up against the stage and each other as they belted out lyrics memorized long ago. The Aggrolites themselves were really good at engaging the crowd with their body language and energetic stage presence, but simply the music itself was extremely captivating. One look at the audience proved that it was impossible to resist responding physically to the dirty reggae beats. The band has obviously realized that their live show is something special, as they have just released a live album, Unleashed Live Vol. 1, which hopefully captures some of the magic so we all can relive Aggrolites shows in our everyday lives.
The crowd at this show was very diverse in age, and everyone was dancing, from age 17 to 70. The Aggrolites’ sound obviously has widespread appeal that crosses many generations, and it’s great to be a part of such a positive and accepting crowd. The show ended in an encore with the last song being a cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” It was soulful and high-spirited rendition of the classic tune, and the band closed out the venue while the audience sang “don’t let me down” for minutes on end. It was a very uplifting moment, and I’m happy that The Aggrolites are bringing this experience to people across the country in the coming weeks. If you get a chance, I would definitely recommend checking out this tour!