The way I feel about the music ... it can be copied, you know, but is not copy do it. Is the feel. --Bob Marley
From Elvis to Clapton, Blondie to UB40, dreadlocked hippies to suburban wiggas, white people have been co-opting black music and culture for decades. It's so commonplace, I almost missed that underlying link between each band at last Saturday's live show at Solar Culture Gallery, a venue that itself is covered in African-inspired art chosen (and often made) by the owner--a Caucasian, African fez-enthusiast.
Opener Fuckin' Kenny's ever-changing lineup donned matching green-and-yellow, old-school Adidas sweat suits, looking like a coed Wisconsin Mormon chapter of Run-D.M.C. Taking a page from the genre-sampling Beck, Kenny cuts and pastes nonsensical rhymes, like in stranger-danger-mocking "Kids Don't Talk to Strangers (They Might Touch Your Butthole)." His normally slow-paced theme song, exploring the pros and cons of being a robot "all fucked up on pills," got a Velvet Underground-meets-The B-52s treatment on Saturday.
Tucson's teenage, Warped Tour-approved Kool Shades followed with their modern punk-ska, hip-hop and classic '60s dancehall-inspired reggae. As the cargo-shorts, straw-hat-wearing, bare-chested KS whipped the mostly female crowd into a frenzy, an odd all-male mosh pit, featuring timed hand-clapping pauses, formed up front. Highlights included a cover of NOFX's self-loathing "Kill All the White Man" and a duet on Kool Shades' original "Every Other Night" with an adorably shy audience member.
New York City's 17-month-old, slim, milky-skinned, preppy headliners Vampire Weekend, midway through their first tour, immediately connected with the locals as lead singer Ezra Koenig explained how East Coast tributes like "Oxford Comma" and "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" were still "100 percent compatible with Arizona." Or, maybe another unbearably hot region like, say--Africa?
VW's sound is frequently compared to Paul Simon's Graceland, a disc that Westernized South African Mbaqanga music; coincidentally, I also heard similarities to the catchy, danceable, indie-punk of the Talking Heads and The Jam--two groups whose lead singers appropriated world music and soul, respectively, for solo projects.