BLOOD & FIRE SOUND SYSTEM, with DILLINGER, RANKING JOE and TRINITY, at Roxy Blu, May 5. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNNN
The Blood & Fire Sound System might have the authentic JA dancehall experience locked down, but their clock is strictly running on North American time. While most reggae shows start closer to dawn than midnight, the London crew was wise to get the artists on early and keep the momentum rolling.
The space echo was still bouncing around after the cracking set of roots classics pulled by selector and label boss Steve Barrow when famed deejay Ranking Joe lumbered onto Roxy Blu's hastily constructed stage. While Barrow and operator Domenic spun rhythms and worked in dub effects, Joe stormed through a tight set of vintage roots, tearing apart classics like Too Much Corruption with his loose, chatty rambling.
Folks were just getting over Ranking Joe's searing set when the legendary Dillinger appeared, covered in gold and flames and rolling his Rs for 30 seconds before launching into a thundering version of Ragnampiza. Stopping the rhythm three beats in, the Kingston deejay bellowed "Wheel" and muttered something about not eating fertilizer, and the crushing cut started again.
More than Ranking Joe and even the slick set by headliner Trinity, Dillinger seems to understand the harsh irony of being on a tour like Blood & Fire. Despite being at the foundation of modern Jamaican music as well as a top draw around the world, these three deejays probably couldn't even get a gig back home.
Rather than offer up a watered- down road set, though, Dillinger held nothing back, shouting himself hoarse, quoting from other songs and leaving the crowd a skanking, delirious mess. By the time he got to his signature track, CB 200, it was like 1978 all over again. In a good way.