Ozomatli is a party. Not just party music, an actual party. With ten members, the band has more people onstage than the number of guests at my last birthday celebration. Mixing salsa and hip-hop, samba and tablas, ska and jazz, this Los Angeles-based band gives multiculturalism a soundtrack, calling it "The Diversity Dance Party."
This collectivist sound doesn't have room for any individual stars. Turntabalist Cut Chemist, one of the biggest badasses on the wheels of steels, isn't even the center of the band. The group's self-titled debut, released last year, blasts through most of the genres that inspire feet to movin', while in person the ten-man band has even been known to start the set with a samba line. It's fitting that Ozomatli takes its name from the Aztec god of dance. But Ozomatli doesn't just splice and dice without regards for the consequence. Styles are turned so far on their heads that something new usually emerges. By updating traditional Latin sounds Ozomatli is the real deal. The group is very civic minded (i.e., singer/guitarist Raul Pacheco even had a short career as a political consultant) and members have been involved in strikes, sit-ins and protests. But the all-Spanish, mostly political lyrics (raps are in English) take a backseat to the free-your-ass grooves. Who cares if your mind follows? (David Simutis)
Ozomatli performs Monday, July 26, at 7 p.m. at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, opening for Dave Matthews (tickets are $28.50$39.50), and on Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, opening for Santana. Call (713) 629-3700.
"Welcome to the freak show" is a line you'd never expect to hear out of the mouth of a rapper, let alone a Christian performer. But the gospel rap boys of dc Talk (Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith) have been known to yell this Alice Cooper-ish greeting at the beginning of their shows. Why? Because these Bible-thumping boys are self-titled "Jesus Freaks" who are rapping for their audience and, of course, the Lord. This trio of God-fearin' hip-hoppin' Virginians (they all met at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg in '87) has been Christian music's saving grace ever since its latest album, Supernatural, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard album charts last October and became a breakout smash. The group's success can be mostly attributed to its less-than orthodox concerts. They occasionally partake in that once-daring practice known as stage-diving. dc Talk is rap music for those who still think Kirk Franklin is too edgy. (Craig D. Lindsey)
dc Talk performs as part of the Joy Fest on Friday, July 23, at Six Flags AstroWorld's Southern Star Amphitheatre, 9001 Kirby Drive. Both shows start at 8 p.m. and are free with park admission. Call (713)799-1234 or (713)799-8404.
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The New Morty Show
To bastardize an immortal song by the immortal bastard Burt Bacharach: "What the world needs now" is not another retro-swing band." Just as the whole genre threatens to become literally part of the retro-past, The New Morty Show starts taking over the scene. And if you think this is just another faceless act to jump the jump-jive-n-wail bandwagon, you're as wrong as Peter Lawford when he thought Frank couldn't possibly hold a lifelong grudge against him. The ten-piece New Morty Show from San Francisco is by far one of the best of the nuevo swing groups, which on its debut, Mortyfied! (Slimstyle), prove it ain't merely a Xerox act. What really sets this band apart is the excellent honking horn section, featuring bandleader Morty Okin on trumpet and Van Hughes (who, as the eldest member, actually played with the Woody Herman and Duke Ellington Orchestras) on trombone. Throw in the interplay between one sultry chanteuse (Connie Champagne on record, new singer Kat Starr on stage) and comic Vise Grip on vocals, and this band has much to offer. It does it both in originals like the swingin' "Baby What's Up?" and the sex-drenched "15 Months in Jail" to a wonderfully brilliant bizarre choice of totally transformed covers like Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and a Billy Idol "White Wedding (Rebel Yell) Medley."(Bob Ruggiero)
The overall vibe is more '50s Vegas and James Ellroy novels than big dance bands or trad jazz, so bring those monogrammed martini glasses one more time. Find out more at www.newmortyshow.com.
The New Morty Show plays Friday and Saturday, July 23 and 24, at Lucky's Lounge in the bottom of Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, at 10 p.m. Cover is $10. Call (713)862-7580.