Although I have been mesmerized by the
music of Midnite for over 2½
years, it was not until the Bob Marley Day celebration this past February that I had my
first opportunity to witness the word, sound and power that this musical quintet offers live. I was
totally overwhelmed by their 45 minute set in Sad Diego. Midnite's musical delivery
at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival
was equally extraordinary, though also far too brief. So when Professor
Skank promised that Midnite would grace St. Louis with 2½ hours of music, I grabbed the
first plane ticket I could find. Thereafter, I agreed to drive the band to and from Lincoln, Nebraska for
an appearance the following night.
On Friday, July 19th I began
what would eventually be 10 hours of plane rides and 20 hours of driving just to take in Midnites
St. Louis and Lincoln appearances. Upon arrival at the St. Louis airport, I was paged to the Airport
Directors Office, where Professor Skank had arranged
for me to chill for an hour until the band got in. Shortly thereafter Skank
arrived and we proceeded to meet the band for their arrival from St. Croix. As we were waiting to retrieve
their baggage, the public address system came on saying "St. Louis would like to welcome Midnite,
the hottest reggae band on the planet, who will be performing tomorrow night at Mississippi Nights". Ron
and Abijah and I were all overcome with Professor Skanks hospitality. That night
(at exactly midnight) KevinStraw
of community radio station KDHX was gracious enough to turn the "Night Shift" microphone over to
ProfessorSkank and I so that we could
interview Vaughn Benjamin and give the people a taste of the sounds of Midnite.
At 10:35 the following night, a roar
could be heard throughout the walls of Mississippi Nights as Midnite entered the house. I
could tell right away that Professor Skank was not exaggerating when he said that St. Louis was really
pumped up to see Midnite come alive. Kufunya
of Big Sis Entertainment proceeded to introduce Midnite.
They came forward and brought the walls down with 3 hours of pure consciousness manifesting itself in the
form of classic roots music. The crowd was rocking from their opening song "LoveJah"
until the house lights came up at 1:45 as they were completing "GreatZimbabweWalls".
Never before have I witnessed a crowd so
spellbound by music. Between each song you could hear the crowd balling out for one song or another. I did
not see a disappointed face in the entire crowd except from employees who had to stay well past the usual
I have been to thousands of reggae
concerts, and have been overwhelmed by an artists performance on several occasions. BobMarley at the Greek Theatre in 1978, Ras Michael at the Back Door in 81,
The Mighty Diamonds at the Berkeley Community Theatre are three events that come to my
mind. But never, never in my entire life have tears come to my eyes like they did when Midnite played
"Love Right", a song which has become my theme song: "Love right, live
right. Love right, live right. Everything is gonna be all right, if i and i love right, and i live right".
Their 3 hour set included the songs
"Ancient Trees", "Ras For A Reason", "Dagger
Man", "Jehovah", "Urt" and "Thats
On You" from their new album "Seek Knowledge Before Vengeance". Other favorites of mine
included "Love Jah", "Rastaman Stand", "Bless",
"Due Reward", "Old Robe", "Bushman"
and "Grapes of Wrath/Merciless". I got the impression that they would have
played for another hour if the house lights had not come up.
During a portion of the set, I roamed
through the audience with a handful of CDs. They went out so fast, it was like selling popcorn in a movie
theatre. A brother came up to me and asked me which album the song they were playing was on. When i told
him, he immediately bought the CD. He came forward 3 more times, each time the song they were playing was
on another album. Eventually, he went home with all five of the albums that were available that night. It
was also good to finally meet Michael Kuelker.
As Vaughn explains, Midnite
does not come to a town in order to "perform". You will not hear fancy song introductions or
endings. You will not see Vaughn asking the crowd to wave their hands, flash their
lighters or answer his calls. Instead, Midnite comes forward to commune with the people.
After three hours on stage (with no dinner), Vaughn proceeded to spend another hour
reasoning with some idren back stage before the night ended. This is not a show. It is a livity.
The following morning, we had to arise
early as it was a 7 hour drive to Lincoln, Nebraska. Kufunya,
who is a loyal soldier of jah army and a part of their management team was gracious to assist in the
driving. Along the way, we listened to The Cipheraw numerous times, with Bosie and Phil
repeatedly calling out for me to forward a tune (especially "Broke Man Dan") again and again. Cipheraw exposes a different side of Midnite, with some
wicked bass lines, a distinctively jazzy style at times accompanied by Vaughns
voice often sounding as though it is being funneled through a tube. Crucial!!
We arrived the Royal
Grove in Lincoln Nebraska at 6:00, and were greeted with 104 degree whether that felt even
hotter then that. The show was arranged by Carter Van Pelt,
who greeted us at the venue for the sound check. Carters
keen ear, extensive knowledge of music, livication and excellent writing skills make him one of reggae
Midnite took the stage at 9:40 and proceeded to pump out raw roots music until 12:30.
Although the crowd was substantially smaller and less diversified than the previous night, those in
attendance were highly enthused with Midnites presence. Just hearing Ron sing
"New Life" made the 16 hours of driving worthwhile. Other songs that had not
been performed the previous night included "No Rest For The Weary", "3
Kingdoms" and "Stand Up". Most of the songs they did play the
second night sounded nothing like the prior evening. Truly amazing.
The next morning, I drove the band to the
Kansas City Airport prior to returning to St. Louis to catch my flight home. Along the way, Ron
treated me to the newest album he is working on, "Gracious Mother
Africa" by Dezarie. The album, which will be released next month,
has extraordinary vocals and poignant musical arrangements. It lifts Dezarie to an even
higher level on the heels of her exquisite debut album "Fya".
In addition to "Gracious Mother Africa", Afrikan Roots
Lab will soon release "Judgement",
a compilation album featuring Dezarie, Laga, Aba, Mash
and some of St. Croixs other roots singers. But what i am most looking forward to is the Midnite
Dub album, which will be released in September. And Midnite will be in full effect at the
8th annual Monterey Bay Reggae
Festival on September 1, 2002!!!!
I can not possibly thank all of the
wonderful people that i meet along my journey. To ProfessorSkank
and Carter, maximum respect for all your hospitality and
livication to forwarding righteous music. To Bucky and
particularly SisterRizla, give thanx for
the food preparation and excellent ital. Most of all, i give thanx to the dozen or so nameless faces who
approached me during my journey to thank me for my contributions to the cause through Ireggae.