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Midnite Over The Midwest

Mississippi Nights
St. Louis, Missouri
July 20, 2002

Royal Grove
Lincoln, Nebraska
July 21, 2002

 

Midnite Over St. Louis

Although I have been mesmerized by the music of Midnite for over 2 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 2 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 Midnite’s St. Louis and Lincoln appearances. Upon arrival at the St. Louis airport, I was paged to the Airport Director’s 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 Skank’s hospitality. That night (at exactly midnight) Kevin Straw of community radio station KDHX was gracious enough to turn the "Night Shift" microphone over to Professor Skank 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 "Love Jah" until the house lights came up at 1:45 as they were completing "Great Zimbabwe Walls". 

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 time.

I have been to thousands of reggae concerts, and have been overwhelmed by an artist’s performance on several occasions. Bob Marley 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 "That’s 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 Vaughn’s voice often sounding as though it is being funneled through a tube. Crucial!!

Midnite Over Lincoln

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. Carter’s keen ear, extensive knowledge of music, livication and excellent writing skills make him one of reggae true gems.


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 Midnite’s 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. Croix’s 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 Professor Skank and Carter, maximum respect for all your hospitality and livication to forwarding righteous music. To Bucky and particularly Sister Rizla, 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.


 

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