By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
New York reggae fans are like spoiled children. For much of the year, we sit back, sip Guinness, and let Jamaica come to us. Reggae-heavy radio gives us the luxury of supposing all of America is as dancehall-happy as we are. Our most arduous summer activity is sorting through limitless options: The all-day reggae concert or the all-night sound clash? The E to Jamaica Center or the B to Church Avenue?
Thenlike a parent who has suddenly decided on disciplinecomes winter. Jamaican artists look bemusedly at our weather reports, wonder what in Jah's name 10 degrees feels like, and then decide staying in Kingston makes more sense than finding out. Our smorgasbord of reggae events dwindles to a meager plate of hors d'oeuvres; trekking through an arctic air mass in pum-pum shorts to catch that rare concert is suddenly less appealing than staying home with DJ Fidel's summer mix CD. And since winter is when Middle America decides to come to Jamaica and feel all right, a short flight to MoBay suddenly turns pricier than our monthly heating bill. Wan and weary, we vow to never take Jamaica-in-NYC for granted again.
Spring is salvation. And this year, it has quite a load of damage control to do. Only a sumptuous affair can make up for the winter of 2004: a trailer-load of renowned reggae artists performing, say, at one of the most venerated venues in New York.
Done. On May 8, Radio City Music Hall will host a reggae extravaganza featuring almost every VP Records reggae act you know and love. Yes, that's Radio Cityall-American tourist attraction, home to such whitebread kitsch as the Christmas Spectacular and the Rockettes. For one long evening, it'll be Yard-ified. Goodbye, lockstep leg lifts; hello, coochie-popping, booty-shaking reggae wininggalore.
The concert is part and parcel of indie label VP Records' year-long 25th anniversary fete. It's actually been almost 50 years since Vincent "Randy" Chin began selling discarded jukebox fare in his small Kingston shop, "Randy's Records"but it's been exactly a quarter-century since he relocated his store to Jamaica, Queens, and rechristened it "VP" (for Vincent and Patricia, his wife). In 1993, VP became a record label; in 2002, it hit the crossover jackpot, signing a distribution deal with Atlantic. The rest is reggae history, which we're now in the midst of: Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder convinced the record-buying public that reggae doesn't have to sound like Bob Marley; pop acts hasten to add red, gold, and green to their wardrobes; teenagers around the world have extended their patois beyond "irie, mon."
VP's anniversary events are slated to include a fall photo retrospective at Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallerylikely showcasing photographs by Ajamu Myrie and Adrian Boot, among othersas well as the release of a commemorative CD box set. But the Radio City show, whose proceeds will go to selected charities, is the big-time bashmentofficial notice that dancehall has truly arrived.
The concert's all-encompassing lineup paints a holistic picture of contemporary reggaeat once sacred and profane, silly and solemn, dulcet and discordant. Soulful Beres Hammond will make like Marvin or Luther and have old-timers fanning themselves, while Wayne Wonder will give the younger set something to scream about. Shaggy will remind us how reggae crossover sounded in the pre-Sean Paul era. The Sparkling quartet T.O.K. will prove that *NSync have nothing on Jamaican boybands. Buju Banton might play the prophet Isaiah, rousing our passions and then softly soothing us with tracks like "Destiny" or "Untold Stories." And to cap it all off, send in the virtuoso clowns: "Energy god" Elephant Man, comic duo Tanto Metro & Devonte, and stage maestro Beenie Man, whose brilliant performances make us mirthful, merryand forgetful of all those months we spent cold and ashen, hungry for the musical fix we somehow sensed was coming our way.
VP Records 25th Anniversary Concert, May 8, Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 212.307.7171
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After less than a year and a half, the world's greatest left-wing country-rock band reconvenes to surprise, educate, titillate, and entertain youwith perhaps an emphasis on the old stuff they've re-recorded for their aptly entitled Punk Rock. Dowd is equally sardonic in a not dissimilar mode, but rarely as funny or humane. With Neil Cleary on March 12. CHRISTGAU
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BELLYDANCE SUPERSTARS & DESERT ROSES
B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd Street, 212.307.7171
Former Police manager Miles Copeland is the prime mover behind this oddly compelling reintroduction of the Arab bellydance. Master drummer Isaam Houshan lays down the beats for a bevy of 14 undulating babes of various Oriental and Occidental heritages, categorized as either Superstars (Ansuya! Jamar! Jillina!) or members of the Desert Roses troupe (Dondi and twin sister Marilyn Monroe Dondi!). GEHR