Aftermath: The Wailers, and Much Gnashing of Teeth from Our Writer, at House of Blues
Aftermath recently read the following quote on Twitter:
"Reggae is actually the only musical genre in which its greatest artist ever is actually its most popular as well."
While Aftermath thinks this reveals a major disservice to artists like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Toots and the Maytals and even pre-reggae toaster Prince Buster, it's undeniable that Bob Marley is the most well-known reggae artist in North America, and that his legacy, established in part by an assassination attempt, his early death from cancer, and his devotion to a certain mood-altering smokable plant, lives on in dorm rooms across the country. Which is why it's disappointing that the band touring in his stead - featuring bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, the only current member to have actually played with Marley - did such a piss-poor job of honoring the man's legacy on the stage.
And come to think of it, the opening band should have been some warning. Orlando's the Supervillains (above) played Sublime-inspired ska-rock (at least they had an actual saxophone player; more on that later) with catchy hooks that would have been entirely listenable if even just one of their songs had been about something other than vagina or chemical enhancement. Lyrics like "Girl you got me jonesin' for your cunt," "Hit it 'til the pussy aches" and "Mary Jane and Jaegermeister" made them sound more like frat boys than seasoned musicians, and seemed a stark contrast to the sensitive lyrics of Marley songs like "Is This Love." If only they had a better songwriter. Our companion liked that they sang in harmony - harmonizing about pussy! Classy! - and Aftermath always finds it impressive when a drummer can sing and play at the same time, but she wasn't impressed by the fact that he yelled "Houston, Texas!" after Every. Single. Song. Before The Wailers Band (as this version is called) hit the stage, someone came over the PA system to shill for an unnamed organization that fights hunger for which the band was taking donations. For just 25 cents, an audience member could get a plastic wristband indicating they'd donated a quarter toward the abolishment of starvation. But Aftermath has a question. Instead of depending on a room full of stoners to donate towards your cause, why not just charge $5 more a ticket and donate the overage? Surely Live Nation could take the hit, especially when HOB charges $6.50 a Lone Star.
Anyway, back to the band. At least the Wailers know their own roots. They opened with a medley of rocksteady songs, including Prince Buster - brass section provided pitifully via keyboard instead of actual horn - before announcing singer Elan Atias with a prerecorded audio of Bob Marley talking over the din of thousands of screaming fans. It was awkward. Aftermath was slightly sad to see Atias instead of, say, Ziggy Marley or one of Bob's myriad other spawn, but if fans were hoping for a Bob Marley clone they got a good one. Everything from Atias' dread-tossing to his dance moves seemed to be carefully gleaned from studies of Marley performing on video. Even the backup singers looked bored. The Wailers played the obvious hits: "Is This Love," which was actually rendered quite beautifully by Atias, and "Stir It Up," along with lesser-known songs like "Trench Town Rock," "Waiting In Vain," and "Concrete Jungle," even sampling "What's Love Got to Do With It." The fans in the audience (i.e. those not watching the Cowboys game) seemed into it, but Aftermath couldn't shake the feeling that she was just watching a glorified tribute band. For more photos from the show, see our slideshow here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.