SuperheavyREGGAE featuring selectors Jeremiah and Friendlyness , special guests English Pound and vocalists at Club 56 (56 Kensington), Saturday (July 12). $5, free before 10:30 pm. email@example.com Rating: NNNNN
Corporate-sponsored mega-parties featuring superstar producer/DJs and go-go dancers are fine, but nothing beats the satisfying feeling of dancing the night away at a party that feels like a community. The first superheavyREGGAE party I attended made that distinction clear to me. Instead of being ushered to the bar by a fast-talking promoter, I got roped into helping the organizers get the disconnected bass bins working again. Patrons from their events stop Jeremiah and Friendlyness on the street to try and convince them to let them get on the mike at their next party.
"We didn't really intend it to have that open-mike feel, and we're actually trying to stop that now," Friendlyness explains over coffee recently.
"Because there were so many MCs up there, people would just come up and try to get on the mike, which was OK sometimes, but you've got to keep some quality control."
These days the party might see Friendlyness, Jeremiah, hornsman I-Sax (whose dubbed-out jazz improvisations are often the highlight of the night), MCs Kulcha Ites, Stevie Banton and Caddy Cad, along with occasional special guests. (English Pound will be bringing the sound of UK roots reggae this week.)
Recently, they've made their debut at the Silver Dollar, where they plan to bring in live bands, including Friendlyness's band, Truth And Rights (featuring some members of Big Sugar), but they'll continue the monthly throwdowns at Club 56.
"When we first started, 56 really gave us a break. They gave us the night and let us turn it up as loud as we wanted. It's starting to seem a bit too small, though, when it's really packed."
It's been hard not to notice the recent surge of activity in the downtown reggae scene. All of a sudden there are roots reggae and dub nights every weekend, and in the mainstream club scene contemporary dancehall more and more forums are appearing for at least part of the night.
The ongoing split still exists between contemporary reggae music events happening way uptown or in the suburbs and downtown nights built around a much smaller audience more interested in the classics.
"Part of superheavyREGGAE's mission is to play more new reggae, modern roots stuff," Friendlyness says. "The downtown reggae scene is very focused on classics and foundation tunes, and then there's the uptown dancehall scene. But there wasn't much going on for modern roots reggae.
"We play classics, but we want to keep it current, too."