Israel Vibration Rocks Milwaukee
On tour in support of its latest disc, "Stamina," released last year by Tafari Records, singers Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin and Cecil "Skelly" Spence rocked a crowd that didn't pack the main level of the venue, but filled it comfortably.
Mixing tracks from throughout their 30-plus-year career, Bulgin and Spence alternated lead vocals throughout a 90-minute set that kicked off with backing band Roots Radics reeling through a brief instrumental medley of Israel Vibes' best-known tunes.
The two have some of the most distinctive and emotive voices in music today and, although it's a well-worn cliché, it seems safe to say the crowd -- a multi-racial mix of rastas, hippies, college-age couples and others - would have been happy to hear Spence and Bulgin sing the Milwaukee phone book.
When the singers appeared, the crowd cheered, and whenever the two veteran vocalists danced, the audience went wild. That's due, at least in part, to the inspiring sight of seeing the two singers skanking joyfully despite the crutches that are a result of their childhood affliction with polio.
If there is a cooler person on earth than bassist Flabba Holt, I'd love to meet him or her. Holt alternately thumbed his Hofner violin bass - held nearly chest high - and played it with the more traditional index and ring fingers. He leaned on his towering, thumping bass amp looking cool and deadly, sometimes his body sway was barely perceptible.
Holt makes his snakey bass runs look easy and his long-time cohort Style Scott does the same for the drum kit, smacking the hell out of the skins and keeping time like a metronome infused with killer spirit.
Opening the show was Louisiana reggae rock trio Outlaw Nation, which played tunes from its recent "Blood Money" disc, including the indie radio hit "Pretty Girls," as well as its predecessor, "Shine."
When you think of groups that mix rock and reggae, what comes to mind? Maybe Bad Brains? Maybe Basement 5? Maybe white punk bands like The Clash?
But those were bands that generally either separated out the rock from the rockers (like Bad Brains) or just attempted authenticity (The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers), whether they achieved it or not.
Outlaw Nation blends the two into something a little more unique. Almost like a gritty rock band in Kingston might do. There are no clear lines. A tune with a reggae bass line or melody might sound nearly metal.
If you've heard the band's records, you'd be surprised at just how heavily featured hard rock is in the band's live sound.
The Reggae News Agency