lightly Stoopid and Co. brought the funk to Chicago this past Sunday on their How I Spent My Summer Vacation tour. Hundreds of people gathered at Huntington Bank Pavilion to share their love for Roots Rock and Reggae, a genre that doesn’t get as much recognition in a city like Chicago where the musical culture is dominated by dance and hip hop. People of all types were present at the venue, eager to relax and enjoy some smooth riddims and catchy guitar riffs. Right away I knew I was in the right place as I saw clouds of smoke billowing out from the crowd after I got through the gates. I knew that if I was going to cover the show properly I needed to get on the same wavelength as everyone else. Luckily, I came prepared with my own supplies and lit up a spliff as I mingled with parts of the crowd before the show.
The night started with a set performed by Tribal Seeds from San Diego. They immediately set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the night. The duo of Ryan "Gonzo" Gonzalez and Steven Rene Jacob on guitar drove the melodies of each piece which washed the crowd in a sea of echo and reverb. Jamey "Zeb" Dekofsky on drums and Victor Novarro on bass held down the melody for the rest of the group and maintained the high pace throughout their set. What struck me the most was the incredible presence of their horn section. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch their names, but their sound will stick with me for a long time. Their presence strongly accented each piece and captivated the crowd. Near the end of the set, the trumpet and trombone players showed off their chops as they each went off on their own solos. The group showed great versatility in their set. For one song, Novarro hopped off the bass to change places with Steven Jacob and take over vocals for a song delivered in Spanish. That double-timed piece was one of the highlights of the night. For their penultimate piece, they threw it back to a classic by presenting a refreshing rendition of Return of the Mack by Mack Morrison. I have to give huge props to Ryan Gonzalez who killed the vocals on that joint. The strongest aspect of their performance in my eyes was the relationship between the different sections. Everyone on stage complimented each other through their instrumentation which provided a really solid performance overall. They served as a great opener for the other two acts and really gave the crowd a sense of what was in store.
One thing I began to notice during the first set was how chill and friendly the crowd at the concert was. I’ve had my fair share of concert experiences gone wrong thanks to particularly shitty people, but I wasn’t afraid of that happening at this show. It goes to show the kind of people that these groups attract and the kind of energy and behavior that the bands promote at their shows: all love, peace, and happiness. Everyone was there to have a good time and enjoy the music.
Another interesting thing to note was their decision to play Reggae remixes of the Radiohead album OK Computer. That was something that I couldn’t believe at first. I never thought that such a thing would exist but there I was, sitting on the pavement, singing along to Airbag accompanied by a reggae drum backing track.
Next came Matisyahu. Their setup was unlike Tribal Seeds, who featured two guitar players, keys, bass, a horn section, and drums; they didn’t set up with anything out of the ordinary. However, what struck me immediately was the combination of the swagger of Mathew Miller (Vocals) and the strength of the bass played by Stu Brooks. Miller paraded the stage like it was his own and had a mannerism I could only compare to Snoop Dogg’s. His vocal delivery was incredibly versatile, quickly switching between catchy, sung hooks to rapid-fire raps. Then there was Brooks: his bass shook the whole venue with each hit. After I left the pit, I was standing about 50 meters from the stage and could still feel the vibrations shaking my rib-cage. When Miller encouraged Brooks to go on his own bass solo I felt myself drowning in his sound; it was if thunder had struck and down with it came Brooks’ basslines. Absolutely massive, his sound was. During his solo, Big Yuki on the keys would throw in these fluttering trills that floated above the bass, painting a very surreal sonic landscape. Matisyahu carried the same high energy and funky rhythms that Tribal Seeds started with and added their own flavor to it. Unlike their predecessors, their sound wasn’t as filled with reverb which showed a more pronounced take on the genre. As their set was coming to a close, you could feel the suspense building in the crowd. The sky had fallen, the stage lights sprang on, and everybody was left tentatively waiting for what they had come to see. I didn’t know exactly what I was in store for, but Tribal Seeds and Matisyahu both in a way foreshadowed what was to come.
When the wait was over, a man tread onto the stage highlighted by the red of the overhead lights which pierced through the cool night and took to the center before announcing the main act. Like a commentator before a prime time bought he introduced Slightly Stoopid to the eager crowd which instantly erupted in whistles and cheers. The group wasted no time getting into it and right away hit the crowd with their own flavor of hypnotic, mellow vibes. Their act was accompanied by psychedelic visuals which provided a great backdrop to their trance-inducing sound. They featured a variety of members on stage, with Oguer Ocon on congas and percussion, accompanied by Ryan Moran on drums, featuring their own horn section performed by Karl Denson and DeLa on saxophone and Andy Geib on trombone, all lead by Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald on guitar and bass respectively. From start to finish their set flowed incredibly smoothly. Slightly Stoopid delivered in every aspect: they brought the whole show full circle with smooth and rich sounds, captivating guitar licks and rhythms, beautiful accentuations coming from the horn section, and powerful vocals. It all came together perfectly.
The whole experience was a trip from start to finish. Each group tosses you into a flurry of captivating rhythms and melodies that got the whole venue moving. Each group complimented each other yet they all brought a different style to the table. Overall, the whole performance felt cohesive from start to finish. You had the dynamic duo of entrancing rhythms and a strong horn section provided by Tribal Seeds, the ground shaking bass solo and swagger of Mathew Miller courtesy of Matisyahu, and the smoothness and groove of none other than Slightly Stoopid.