Forward and fiaca, menacle and den gosaca
Thursday night, I needed to get out of the house. Not much going on, so I ended up at the Blue Lamp to watch Ruebi Freyja and Six White Horses play. Both those acts appeared here recently, so I can’t write about ’em again. While I was standing around outside talking to General, the security guy, he recommended coming back Sunday for DJ Wokstar‘s reggae bash. “A nice, mellow vibe,” he said.
Friday, I walked around East Sac with a friend. Saturday, I planned to go out—turned on Fox while getting ready. What a one-two-three punch: back-to-back episodes of Cops, followed by America’s Most Wanted. After that, who wouldn’t be too paranoid to leave home?
Sunday, I was out of town during the day—missed the Horribles fest at St. Rose of Lima Park. Another opportunity blown to go all hagiographic over Skinner’s latest band, Iguanadon. Later, I hit the Blue Lamp.
At slightly before 10 p.m., there was no one there, and Robert Palmer’s ‘80s MTV staple “Addicted to Love” was blasting. The only evidence something irie might be in the offing was a green, gold and red flag hanging on the stage-left wall over the DJ setup. Then the music shifted to something more overtly Jamaican. One person, then another, trickled in, and 15 minutes later the dance floor was starting to fill up.
It’s easy to forget that reggae, like disco, is sound-system music; reggae records were made to be blasted, loud, on the portable sound systems that ignited gatherings in Jamaica. And like a disco record can’t truly be understood without hearing it in a club context, reggae sounds best over big speakers. The crabwalk riddims come alive and insinuate their magic. The stop-start bass lines lurch like a car with a stick shift being driven by someone with zero standard-transmission experience. The flinty guitar lines flicker in and out of the mix. Over that, some records adhere to overt American soul and gospel references, while others veer off into the psychedelia of dub, with horn and vocal lines that decay into space like petroleum-ether-induced aural hallucinations.
DJ Wokstar’s been playing this stuff for three years, and over that time he’s learned to work a crowd. On this night, he was still wearing a huge afro wig left over from the previous night’s disco party. By 11 p.m., the throwdown was in full swing. It was still kicking hard when I left at 12:30 a.m., the dance floor a writhing pan-ethnic mass of bodies, either skank-dancing solo or coupling to do what, if it was a yoga position, would be called whatever’s Sanskrit for “Standing Doggy Style.”
DJ Larry Rodriguez, a.k.a. Flower Vato, was standing nearby when he got looped in. “Whoa, that came out of nowhere,” he said, laughing. “Now, that’s what life is all about.”
Suddenly, a Sir Mix-A-Lot-approved caboose was backing up into my lap, too, and I couldn’t grasp the significance: My inner Caucasian was yanking the leash of my inner pooch, the result looking like a pathetic Ken doll that just dodged the rays of the mother ship’s bop gun.
The good thing? There’s always next Sunday, in case I decide to get funky again. You can, too.