Denver, CO – A stool with candles and burning incense fixed onto a bunch of bananas was the first indication of the upcoming circus act of Lee “Scratch” Perry. Friday in a packed house at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, the legend validated his eccentric reputation. During the course of his performance, the colorfully dressed Perry tinkered with a device that produced animal sounds, while puzzling not only his supporting band, Subatomic Sound System, but also the audience. Still, it was entertainment at its finest, as an architect of reggae music stood before respecting fans.
Since the 1970’s, Perry defied production techniques that attracted legends of his native country, including Bob Marley. Such techniques earned him various accolades, including a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2003 for his EP Jamaican E.T., and a spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004. A pioneer in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music, the 76 year-old “mad professor” does not show any signs of slowing down.
Entertainment of the night included Tatanka, DJ Mr. Brown, and opener Rudie Clash, comprised of roots reggae band DubSkin’s Jamal Skinner and Jason Wieseler. Rudie Clash blew the audience away with their mixture of reggae, crunk, and dub music. Front man Jamal Skinner brought a sense of mystery and heavy energy to the ballroom, while Jason Wieseler proved himself to be a mastermind of sound. Other than Mr. Perry himself, Rudie Clash left a considerable impression on the audience, which begs the question of why they do not incorporate such sounds into DubSkin’s music.
Donned in a mixture of tweaked athletic apparel, which included a baseball cap covered with embellishments and stockings reminiscent of the variety of flavors in a pack of Life Savers candies, Perry’s colorful outfit complemented his eccentric performance. Perry composed schizophrenic sounds throughout the night, from grooves that the audience were able to adapt to, to episodes of auditory bamboozling. With the exception of a few recognizable selections produced in his heyday, such as “Duppy Conqueror” and Max Romeo’s “War Ina Babylon,” the majority of the tracks were samples of improvised sounds. The Subatomic Sound System trio enabled Perry’s bizarre act by providing addictive melodica passages and one-drop tempos.
Regardless of Perry’s chaotic hodgepodge of sounds with narratives in tongues that the audience most likely could not interpret, the gentle soul of a legendary genius stood before the audience that night. Thus, nothing but respect and honor was displayed for an individual that has shaped our beloved reggae music. – Christy Jeziorski
Photos: Christy Jeziorski for Inity Weekly