(Sorry this is showing up three days after the concert. I like to be more timely than that, but sometimes other duties call.)
Over here, I encouraged folks attending the Slightly Stoopid concert Wednesday night at the Midtown Ballroom in Bend to show up early and catch the opening act, L.A.’s The Aggrolites, who play a compelling brand of music they describe as “dirty reggae.”
I almost didn’t follow my own advice. Old Towne Pizza took longer to make my calzone than I expected, and by the time I was done, I could hear the band playing as I crossed the street, where I was met by a line to get in that extended from the Midtown’s door to the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Hill Street.
So I cut in line. I confess, I cut in line.
I had to get in, and quickly, because The Aggrolites were the main reason I wanted to see this show. They didn’t disappoint. These dudes know how to bring it, and they make reggae — a style of music I’ve admitted to not “getting” — sound funky and fresh and awesome.
The indispensable element is the organ. The Aggrolites’ bubbly brand of reggae features narcotic doses of the genre’s classic, choppy organ sound, courtesy of Roger Rivas, who wore a bandana that covered not only his forehead, but most of his eyes. When Rivas took a solo, as he did in “Work To Do” and “Keep Moving On,” it was like being plucked out of Bend and dropped in the middle of some gritty punk-rock carnival. The man’s keys are, without question, The Aggrolites’ MVP.
But the whole band is solid. The four non-drummers stood side-by-side on stage, bouncing around, hitting perfect harmonies, dressed in all black and sweating like crazy. Their “ooooh”s and “na na na”s on “Keep Moving On” gave the song and distinctly doo-wop feel, like Motown meets Kingston. And they blasted out of a buoyant instrumental jam with a spirited performance of their best song, “Mr. Misery,” with its triumphant “ah-ah-ah-uh-ahhhh!” refrain.
The Aggrolites basically do one thing, and they do it very well. And at the Midtown, they did it in front of a giant Slightly Stoopid backdrop, a constant reminder that this was just the warm-up act.
The Stoopid dudes are the ones who can come to Bend once a year and fill (or nearly fill) the town’s biggest indoor venue. Their draw among young folks, especially in west-coast, action-sportsy towns, is undeniable. Good for them.
I tried listening to the album they sent, and found it pleasant, if completely unobstrusive. Basically, it’s chilled-out background music. But live, you can hear that these guys have skills and the versatility to tackle a lot of different styles. They got funky for “Sensimilla” and poppy for “Officer” and all kinds of dubby on “Anywhere I Go.” A loping keyboard line in that last one recalled Dr. Dre’s best-known work, and was a highlight of the set.
Slightly Stoopid also dipped its toes into space-rock, thrashy punk and ska. The two frontmen, Kyle and Miles, traded off lead vocals all night. When Kyle took the reins, you could count on a tune with a harder hip-hop edge. When Miles sang, it was sure to be a more laid-back pop tune. One quibble: Miles’ vocals were too low in the mix. He was hard to hear.
I enjoyed nodding along for a while, but after about an hour, Slightly Stoopid’s act began to wear thin, and so did the crowd, which had a high … well, let’s call it a high annoyance factor. (My friends and I call it something else that can’t be printed on a family blog.) There were too many dudes in sideways hats trying hard to look tough, and too many young ladies who appeared not only too drunk to walk, but also too young to drink. So I bailed.
I bailed feeling fine about missing the end of Slightly Stoopid’s set. Like I said, I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t love them, either. And that’s OK. There were hundreds of others there Wednesday night who did love them. And as long as those people are out there and buying tickets, Slightly Stoopid will keep coming back to Bend.
I just hope they continue to bring great openers.