Posted by: martinworster | July 19, 2013

154. Slightly Stoopid

It’s always an interesting experience going to see a band who you know nothing about. Last week (Friday July 12th) a ticket came up to go and see Southern California’s Slightly Stoopid (sic) with some neighbors at the Verizon Amphitheatre just down the road in Irvine. The name Slightly Stoopid rang some vague bells – I thought they might be some sort of OC thrash-skate-punk band that’s been all the rage here since the early 80s. I imagined them wearing Dickies shorts, tattoo’d to the max, long socks pulled up to the knees and a cap with an XL lid, a dreadful Southern California look that hasn’t caught on anywhere else for obvious reasons. Wearers of it look like total tools.

 

A quick few internet searches revealed I was wrong about Slightly Soopid – they seemed to be more of a reggae influence act from Ocean Beach, San Diego (although there’s probably a skate band called Totally Dumb Dooood!). This also made me slightly shudder as alongside skate punk and third generation ska tribute acts, So Cal is good at white reggae-lite. I wondered if it would be a case of big tings agwan in Irvine, seen, ya get meh?

 

I’d never been to this venue before. Quite a few venues in the US are amphitheater type sets ups and this one with a capacity of 16,000 was packed to the rafters. It says a lot about the massive scale of the US in general and the OC metro area specifically to grasp the size. At first we just had seated grass seats right in the nose bleed section at the top. As it’s the cheap seats the crowd was young, drunk, very mixed up and rowdy. I didn’t expect such an alternative pot smoking crowd as this in conservative evangelical Orange County – but then again this says a lot about the US in that you can make a generalization only to find out the opposite is true.

 

Thankfully we managed to smuggle ourselves into better seats right near the front leaving the hoi polloi behind to watch the two warm up bands. First was Tribal Seeds – an all white roots reggae band who sounded pretty authentic, replete with long dreads and patois infused vocal chat and plenty of urges to smoke up to the eager crowd. Next up was Atmosphere – a white rapper who also well polished with a good delivery and stock rap crowd rousing techniques, if anything he sounded a bit like Eminem and a tad, for me, cliched. Lots of ‘wave your hands like you just don’t care, all the ladies in the house…’ early 90s shenanigans that were a bit tired and dated for this cynic. Already a thick smog of marijuana hung over the amphitheater, a smokey sign of things to come.

 

Next up Slightly Stoopid took to the stage. The main members were two dudes who swapped bass, guitar and vocal duties in a talented interplay. They were backed by a horn section and rhythm with congas. Between every song they urged the crowd to ‘smoke some stacks’ and to ‘smoke that real shit’. More ganja wafted around the arena. The crowd passed joints to the band members. All you needed to do was inhale the sticky air to get high. I did. In fact, I have never seen a band smoke so much gear in all my life. I wasn’t sure how they held it together. Even the trumpet player consistently puffed on joints between his horn parts. It was astounding. It made me think how widespread good draw is here – and I was in Orange County, a place stereotyped as conservative but looking around me 16,000 people were high as kites. I was pleased to be proven wrong in my judgement. How long before California follows the lead of Colorado and Washington state and ganja is legal? Yes man, and the Lord said the weed was good….

 

Musically Slightly Stoopid were amazing. It’s a fact that most American bands really have their musical chops due to the size of the place and long touring schedules that can go on for years. All that practice makes perfect. I can go to my local dive bar on a Tuesday night and see three very good bands back to back. Plus the crowds out here expect nothing less and like to get their money’s worth. ‘I’ve paid my bucks and I wanna see a good show dammit!’ Slightly Stoopid delivered. Even vocally they nailed it – particularly on their patois style toasting which could have given MC originators like Tippa Irie or Mickey Dread a run for their money. They also bought on Don Carlos (of Back Uhuru) for a few songs so good to see an original legend in the mostly white house. On the encores they pulled the warm up acts on stage to a totally involved (and stoned) crowd.

 

That leads me to one thing I did find weird. The all white roots warm up band, the white rapper, the white reggae band playing to a 99% white audience – I thought reggae was the original black rebel music and scanning the nights proceedings it looked like it has been re-appropriated and dare I say it whitewashed? Or is that just a case of reverse racism on my part? It just found it a bit weird the lack of crowd and band diversity in this musical form.

 

Small – perhaps unjustified – criticism aside I was glad to have a lot of my misconceptions blown away. And maybe that’s another one that I can ditch. White dudes can play good reggae and they sound Slightly Stoopid.

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