Santa Ana in the '00s, Nigeria in the '70s
The Crosby's grand opening, Nigerian music not by Fela Kuti
THE CROSBY OFFICIALLY OPENS—FINALLY
"Better late than never" has become the Crosby's unofficial motto. The downtown Santa Ana-based restaurant/bar/bookstore/gallery/club is hosting its official grand opening May 22 through 24—almost two months after owners Chris Alfaro, Phil Nisco and Marc Yamaoka started doing business for a discerning, musically savvy clientele.
For this special occasion, the Crosby brain trust has tapped several of its talented inner circle of pals to usher in a new era of entertainment and booze/food consumption in la Naranja. May 22 finds the M.H.D. (My Hollow Drum) crew with Ras G, Dibiase, Exile, Alphabet 4 and the Crosby (Free the Robots, plus head chef Aron) whipping out their finest beats. May 23 will be all about Obey Giant, with world-renowned, LA-based artist/graphic designer Shepard Fairey (a.k.a. DJ Diabetic) and Roam & Urth spinning tracks while Fairey's increasingly valuable art hangs on the walls and Obey Radio gets launched. Limited-edition Obey/Crosby shirts will be available, too.
May 24 features DJ sets by Japson and Sample208 and live performances by Nosaj Thing and Free the Robots. Nosaj Thing (Jason Chung) works for M-Audio, and his gearhead geekery results in some rarefied IDM (Intelligent Dance Music); he's the sonic equivalent of an advanced sushi chef, stuffing his compositions with unusual ingredients wrapped in bizarre textures. Nosaj dazzled me (and hundreds of others) at this year's South By Southwest fest in Austin, Texas, with an incredibly dynamic and inventive array of future funk cuts. Funny I had to go to Tejas to witness the wonder of this LA producer/DJ. If Nosaj has his Views/Octopus EP with him, score it.
Similarly blowing me away at SXSW were Free the Robots, but they were a known entity due to a handful of OC gigs and an excellent self-titled EP that had soundtracked many a deadline-pressured afternoon at Weekly HQ. Alfaro says that FTR's newest material is heavier than their previous output, and, as they've yet to disappoint onstage, this home-court victory lap should be mandatory for anyone seeking a glimpse of next-level beat science. (Check out the forthcoming Stüssy Beats compilation for contributions by Nosaj Thing and FTR.)
As for Fairey, he got involved with the Crosby through Alfaro's DJ partner Roam, who works at Fairey's Obey Clothing shop. "I have deejayed with Chris [Urth] and Roam, and I like their style," Fairey says via e-mail. "They did a Roam & Urth mix CD for Obey, and I did the art for it.
"I think Chris understands the strong cultural connection between art, music and fashion," Fairey continues. "The Crosby will be a haven for people who enjoy all the facets of creative culture. What will distinguish the Crosby is that Chris and Romeo [Roam] have impeccable taste in music and credibility in the music world. They will be able to provide their own talent and attract guest talent. I'm sure the Crosby will please OC locals who will be happy not to make the drive to LA for good nightlife."
For more information, visit www.thisisthecrosby.com.
UNEARTHING MUSICAL RICHES IN NIGERIA
Finding out that Nigeria had thriving psych-rock and funk scenes in the '70s is akin to discovering Yemen harbored a killer ice-hockey league in the Phil Esposito era. But several bands in the Lagos area were absorbing the Anglo-American funkadelic zeitgeist and putting distinctive spins on freaky groove construction, largely inspired by ex-Cream/Airforce drummer Ginger Baker's 1970 visit. Yes, there was more to the West African nation's sonic diet than Fela Kuti.
Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria (Soundway) plumbs the vaults for 15 mood-elevating obscurities. Unbelievably, this bracing music has been unheard for 30 years.
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A song like the Funkees' "Acid Rock" (ha) may seem superficially generic, but listen closely and you can detect James Brown and the Doors' DNA being mutated into something refreshingly choppy and tangy. Joe King Kologbo & His Black Sound bring a rambunctious garage-rock energy to a Santana-esque rave-up. BLO churn up some eerie kundalini with the loamy, chill-inducing "Chant to Mother Earth," as do Ofo the Black Company on the bliss-funk seducer "Eniaro." Really, it's all grandísimo. I recommend playing this at your next party at which mind expansion is on the agenda (the disc makes one ponder with envy the potency of Lagos' hallucinogens).
Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump (Strut) offers 16 more slices of aural sweetness. Remarkably, there's no overlap with Nigeria Rock Special. However, Nigeria 70bears less Western influence, reflecting more the native, post-Fela outpouring of Afrobeat, highlife and hypnotic funk. Ify Jerry Crusade's "Everybody Likes Something Good" is a crucial specimen of the latter style, while Peter King's "African Dialects" heavies up Afrobeat and Ashanti Afrika Jah typify the irrepressible momentum, sprightly chiming guitars and joyful vocals of highlife (possibly the most apt genre tag ever). And Dynamic Africana are the perfectly named champs of the entire collection. The positive vibes emanating from Nigeria 70 should be bottled and sold over the counter in these depressing times.