Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rachid Taha @ SummerStage

So few posts, I know...but perhaps by mid-July or later I'll be back at least half-speed. These days it's all I can do to hammer out a sentence here (let alone a paragraph) before I can the entry and say, maybe tomorrow....

But since I've started, let's see how far I can get.


First, two recent brilliant students I worked with have launched a blog, The Unplanned Adventures of Mir Mir and Bess. (I know them by their given names, which I imagining the rest of the world will soon enough, given their talent, inventiveness, and vision as young authors.) They're on a post-graduate, unplanned cross-country tour that so far has taken them through various cities and towns in the midwest and west, and to attractions both well known, like Four Corners (where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet), and thankfully less so, like the "Garden of Eden" in Kansas that features a barbed wire collection (!), and a creepy stuffed two-headed calf. That is, when they're not speeding down deer-laden, pine tree-lined mountain roads to catch sunrise at the Grand Canyon's north rim. I'm looking forward to the rest of their adventures, particularly in California and the deep South, though I imagine their distinctive takes on every place they visit--like trash cans in Las Vegas resembling "daleks" proving that the city is "evil"--will continue. Be safe and have a great time, M & E!


It's been years since I went to a Summerstage concert (the last one I really remembered paired Mos Def and De La Soul--was that before 2001?), but Tisa suggested we catch raï-rock superstar Rachid Taha yesterday, and so we tromped through the rain over to Central Park's Rumsey Fairground and caught what I thought was a sizzler. Yes, Taha appeared unsteady on his feet and teetered at the edge of the stage shortly after he finished his first song. Yes, someone we ran into at the event told us that he had had to be revived, with several hearty splashes of water, for a performance. Yes, he had trouble holding the microphone at one point and expelled several streams of spit in various directions. Yes, the rain showers came and go But when it came to the songs, he was on it. But I'll get to Taha in a minute.

The two intro bands, especially the first, were well worth the trip. Apollo Heights, a group that's been around for two decades, opened first, and I though I'd heard of them during the first Afropunk festival a few years ago, catching them live was a revelation. (Why don't I attend more live concerts?) Playing new pieces as well as songs from their CD, White Songs for Black People, the band, which comprises Danny Chavis (lead guitar), Marvin Levy (drums), Hayato Nakao (bass/programming), Monk (Brother Earth) (3rd guitar), Honeychild Coleman (rhythm guitar), Daniel Chavis (lead vocals), Micah Gaugh (backing vocals, keyboard), and Damali Young (guest drums), set the afternoon off like a round of firecrackers. I was too busy taking photos and trying not to sink into the muddy turf to take notes, but song after song, and especially "Christine," with its drawn out cadences and heavy drone, made an impression, and by the end of their moody, melodious set, I really wanted to hear a lot more. (iTunes or Lavamus!) The second band, Dengue Fever, from Los Angeles, mixes Cambodian pop and lyrics with rock, and while interesting enough, they went on a bit long. I loved lead singer Chhom Nimol's voice and the band's grooves for the first few songs, but after about 6 or so of the songs featuring jumpy B-52-style beats, I was ready for M. Taha.

And then there he was! Bearing a cigarette like a talisman, shambling across the stage as if unsure of where he was, and belting out song after song like a true pro, with breaks from the singing, dancing and posing taken up by his slurping down some sort of yellow-greenish liquid and fiddling with his pants at the back of the stage. He had the entire crowd hopping in short order, so much so that by the time we left, it looked like I'd crossed a mudpatch. But it was great hearing "Habina," "Kelma," "Ecoute-Moi Camarade," and many other hits, as well as one of his most famous and beloved songs, his cover of the Clash's "Rock the Casbah"--"Rock el Casbah," which he ended the concert with, on the best note. My lower body is still sore from all the dancing. Below are some photos from the day. When I post some videos of YouTube, I link one here.

Crowd at Summerstage
The crowd at SummerStage yesterday
Taha fans, with Algerian flag
Some of Taha's fans, with Algerian flag
Excited crowd at Taha performance
The crowd
Rachid Taha
Taha performing
Taha crooning
Dengue Fever
Dengue Fever performing, with lead singer Chhom Nimol at left
Lead singer for Apollo Heights
Apollo Heights' lead vocalist Daniel Chavis
Honeychild Coleman, Apollo Heights
Honeychild Coleman, Apollo Heights
Apollo Heights on stage
Apollo Heights

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