It’s been one hell of a time for this music writer trying to sift through the layers of rumor and “he-said-she-said” and get to the true core of SnoCore tour in Missoula, 2K2.
First the bad news: Michael Franti and Spearhead will not be with SnoCore by the time they hit Missoula. They part ways on Feb. 28 in Eugene, Ore., and head to Australia. Let this be the end of that cruel and tantalizing rumor.
The good news: The SnoCore crew that plays the Wilma on March 6 will not be lacking at any level of pow-pow, medium or message. The acts lined up are a rainbow assortment of flavors, from salsa to hip-hop, jazz to transcendental whatnot. The music is smooth, the messages are deep. It’s gonna be a conscious party.
Ozomatli: Ozomatli is the name of the Aztec god of dance. Three years after coming together as a band, Ozomatli played across the street from the Democratic National Convention in LA. The protest coalesced around their set, and then the rubber bullets started to fly. This fateful event set them on the musical trajectory that has recently culminated in the Grammy-nominated album, Embrace the Chaos.
“The DNC really impacted us,” says tenor sax player Ulises Bella. “When we were there, we were given a lot of energy from the people who were there to protest, how they felt about our involvement in the protests. It was really inspiring. The negative part of it was how this group of people was just shut down. There was just a hand around a throat saying, ‘You can’t say this anymore.’ It was right at the moment when Clinton was giving his speech about how great America was. The irony of it, the cynicism of it, all of it influenced us. That’s why we called the album Embrace the Chaos, accepting the fucked-up things of the world but wanting to change them.”
Ozomatli’s pan-Latin-American fusions are tight, lively, diverse, and extremely danceable. Although the most common element in their musical tool box is salsa, which they deliver the way God intended, Ozomatli traverses between musical thresholds with an ease and authority that reflects the diversity of their own band blood: Black, Chicano, Cuban, Japanese, Jewish, and Filipino. “Sueños En Realidad” is a Spanish hip-hop anthem, driven by a samba batucada, frosted with whistles and horns. A kora fuels the Caribbean pachanga cheers of “Los Ozos.” Exposing myself to this high-impact band was solid compensation for my disappointment at not having Spearhead pay us a visit. I hope they clear a space for dancing at the Wilma that night.
Blackalicious: The hip-hop duo Blackalicious consists of lyricist The Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel. Their music combines straight-up battle rhymes with whole-hearted dedications to the struggle for social justice. The title of their new album, Nia, means “purpose” in Swahili, but their balance between playful and serious keeps them out of danger of being too preachy, while nonetheless remaining fully outside of the misogynist, gangsta side of hip-hop. One cool side of Blackalicious’ material is their exploration and use of mythology for the advancement of their message, such as the song “Ego Trip,” by Nikki Giovanni, which is a feminist tribute to the goddess Isis. As Rolling Stone recently put it, “This longing for post-gangsta hip-hop has been expressed before but has seldom rocked so well.”
Sound Tribe Sector Nine: In an official statement, Sound Tribe Sector Nine recently announced, “We feel that a new understanding of vibration could usher in the next evolutionary step for this planet. New forms of art, technology, agriculture, medicine, architecture and design, and a higher collective consciousness may all be realized through vibration and music. TIME IS ART.”
Each of their shows is a unique blend of sound, light, geometric projections, improvisational art, and open platform for local artists. Though widely embraced by the jam-band scene, Sound Tribe Sector Nine incorporates jungle and techno beats, tape loops, and a host of electronic tricks into their sound. A quick listen to their transcendental guitar/bass/keys/percussion sound will key you into the fact that these guys defy simple categorization.
KDTU: Headlining the show is Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Denson, a jazz sax player, got his big break playing for Lenny Kravitz on his Let Love Rule and Mama Said and Are You Gonna Go My Way? albums and subsequent tours. Since then, Denson has gone the way of the Mothership.
“Like Maceo and those guys,” he says, “We’re all about the dance floor, but we’re also trying to get away with playing a little bit more jazz.”
So there you have it kids: a breakdown of the SnoCore cloud of flavor set to descend upon our fair town.