Living the Legend
Moments before the current Wailers hit B.B. King’s stage on January 3, for the first of two nights on 42nd Street, Aston “Familyman” Barrett was served yet another set of papers by the Marley estate. Sadly, there are still ongoing disputes between the reps of Bob’s family and his yeoman bandmates over unpaid international royalties and ancillary exploitation rights to the Wailer catalog. Not that this made one whit of difference to the SRO audience coming to lift a glass and shake a tail feather to the legacy of the Great Man himself.
Less than half of this multiculti crowd was old enough to have seen Bob when he was alive, and less than half of the musicians onstage ever actually worked alongside him. Nevertheless, Bob’s spirit was amply evoked through the faithful ministry of singer Gary Pine under Familyman’s musical direction. In these politically divisive times, Bob’s spiritually derived apoliticism is part tonic, part mystery.
Inspired by tent-revival tradition, they opened with “Soul Shakedown Party,” a calling of all righteous spirits down to a dance ritual for human liberation. The segue into “Sun Is Shining” reminded us that Bob’s “rainbow body” of enlightened spirit continues to manifest itself just beyond human perception. Classics like “Catch a Fire,” “Duppy Conqueror,” and “Kinky Reggae” were compressed into kinetic medleys during which young Roxanne Prince and Marsha Scott effectively channeled the I-Three. But as they rocketed from the passionate lilt of “Satisfy My Soul” to the martial cadence of “Exodus” this 11-piece unit made no real attempt to abandon their canon for creative independence. From Familyman’s staccato bass to Wya’s percolating organ to Chinna’s stinging guitar, these Wailers strove to deliver as genuine a Marley experience as possible. —Carol Cooper
Call Me Speedo
If there was a problem, yo, he’ll solve it. At Northsix on New Year’s Eve, Har Mar Superstar battled technical difficulties and rabid fans to bring us his grimy variety of electro-synth-soul. The tubby Ron Jeremy doppelgänger (who recently cut his locks and now sports a cheesy rat-tail mullet) is hardly handsome or buff, yet fellow (white) funk soul brothers Justin Timberlake, Beck, and Jamiroquai can’t make the ladies cream quite like this cat. Har Mar’s a one-man show. His pre-recorded music blends smooth funk and dirrty soul, attracting dancers both conscientiously hip and nerdy. Very few people stood still. If that fatso can bust a move, surely you can, too. Did I mention it was New Year’s and everyone was blasted?
Looking like a porno gospel preacher in a red graduation gown, Har Mar kicked off with “Brand New Day,” instigating a horny dance party. As he disrobed, per custom, to the squeals of the audience, his charisma and confidence surpassed his waistline. This is do-it-yourself sexiness. How punk is that?! As in all great punk shows, the shit hit the fan early. Some drunk chucked something at the audio equipment, pissing off the Superstar. Then the sound shorted out. Later, someone tucked a dollar into Har Mar’s pants and whacked him hard above his peter piper, prompting him to pop the “fucking retard” in the head with the mic. An uninhibited guy got too physical and was given a verbal restraining order. “But I love you!” cried the forsaken fan. “I hate you,” deadpanned Har Mar.
That’s not to say Har Mar’s evening sucked. He got jiggly with it, thrusting and grinding his porky bod, and laying down lyrics like they were powerless lovers. Dancing with a lady glued to his thigh, Har Mar playfully warned her, “Don’t ruin my pajama pants.” Sweating through taupe bikini bottoms stuffed with dollar bills, he stood on his neck and sang. Glitter was stuck to his glistening skin like a Velvet Goldmine reject. “Give it up for me!” he cried. “I’m the fucking best!” —Jeanne Fury
Power of the FM On
WFUV has trouble making friends. First, the Fordham University folk/rock station enraged its Bronx neighbors by erecting a transmission tower across from the Botanical Garden. Now it has provoked the ire of WFMU, Jersey City’s citadel of free-form, which has faced down numerous recent threats to its existence. Sometime in the next month or two, FUV hopes to turn on a “booster” antenna atop Riverside Church to improve its signal in Manhattan and points south and east. FMU station manager Ken Freedman says engineering studies show this would interfere with his local listeners’ reception, the broadcasts of City College station WHCR, and even WFUV itself. The FCC will not bar a booster based on future harm, though, and granted Fordham a license over Freedman’s objections. “We do not anticipate any interference,” says Ralph Jennings, FUV’s GM. “If there is any we will fix it or shut it down.” He does not rule out giving better equipment to affected listeners.
Freedman is dubious. “The only other urban environment where this has been tried is Las Vegas, and it led to litigation,” he says. “This is one of the most densely populated areas in the country. What are they going to do, buy everyone a new antenna?” He is particularly concerned that the booster will affect drivers on the West Side Highway and New Jersey’s River Road, and fears another expensive and protracted legal battle.
FMU fans are watching the church tower for new gear and attentively monitoring sets for static; a post to the station’s message board wondered if trouble had already started. According to Brian Turner, FMU’s music director, who was on the air when the message posted, “That might have been a mix from Ulver, an ambient Norwegian black metal band that uses electronics, segued into a noisy track from Suffering Luna, a California thrash/Hawkwind band that samples shortwave.” Or it might have been a sunspot. —Josh Goldfein