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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 4:06 am | Fair 48º


Paul Mann: Slightly Stoopid Provides Bowl Fans with a Smart Night Cap

Between the Dyslexic Speedreaders, Stephen Marley, Snoop Dogg and Slightly Stoopid, the Blazed & Confused Tour is a big hit

A cornucopia of diverse musical acts filled the Santa Barbara Bowl with nearly five hours of exciting sights and sounds on a sultry Sunday afternoon. Aptly named the Blazed & Confused Tour, the day was full of surprises, some planned some not.

The first act took to the stage in the blazing afternoon heat right on schedule. But most fans opted for the shaded beer garden areas below. Beardie, a member of the rap group Dyslexic Speedreaders, made a surprise appearance to open for fellow Speedreader, Mickey Avalon. Resembling something akin to a “Weird Al” Yankovic clone, he played a few quick numbers to the small crowd, which seemed, well, dazed and confused. Along with Avalon’s’ talented DJ, Beardie brought an odd and ridiculous vibe that somehow fit well into the day’s festivities.

Shortly afterward, quirky rapper Avalon took to the stage, appearing a bit out of place, in the afternoon sun. Looking like he just fell out of bed, he launched straight into his repertoire of raucous and rambunctious rap tunes. It is easy to dismiss Avalon as a campy novelty act, but in the few short years he has been on the music scene he has produced an impressive body of accomplishments. His albums have sold well, and he and his music have appeared in television, movies and commercials on numerous occasions. His catchy lyrics, usually dripping with dark sarcasm, can be traced to his real-life experiences as a heroin addict and sometime prostitute in support of his habit. Music may be the only salvation for this little Jewish boy whose grandparents survived the worst horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. In a surprisingly subdued mood, he smiled and pranced with his stiletto-wearing, smoking backup dancers, and lounged on a couch. The fans who braved the early afternoon sun seemed appreciative and affectionate. Famous for his outbursts and antics on stage, he uncharacteristically completed his set politely and faded off backstage.

After a short set change, the stands began to fill and Stephen Marley took to the stage. He is the most traditional sounding of the Marley brothers, sons of the legendary Bob Marley. (Click here for my June review of the Ziggy Marley-311 performance at the bowl.) Playing with his brilliant band, he began to belt out the true sounds of traditional Jamaican reggae. The crowd came alive in a dancing trance and a plume of scented smoke hovered over the bowl. Stephens’ young son took over the Jamaican flag-waving duties, and looked about the same age as the elder Marley when he sang his first lead vocal. That was on the track “Sugar Pie,” at age 8, in 1980, for his siblings’ band, Ziggy and the Melody Makers.

Toward the end of Marley’s set of iconic classic reggae songs, his brother, Julian, made a surprise appearance, along with Jamaican dance hall DJ Spragga Benz. The three had collaborated before, on Stephen Marley’s “Iron Bars,” and their mini medley melded new dimensions into Stephens’ classic sounds. Spragga is an interesting character, born in Kingston Jamaica, and has been well known in its music scene for nearly 20 years. His freestyle rapping has endeared him to many music legends and he has collaborated with a multitude of performers. Much like Avalon, his pointed lyrics were largely shaped by his real-life experiences in the Kingston slums, including the 2007 shooting death of his 17-year-old son by local police. Not to be outdone by this monumental jam, Avalon, true to his reputation, decided to create some offstage drama. Lounging around the beer area, he swung at one of the security guards for some unknown reason, and was quickly escorted backstage by the throat.

While the set was being changed for what may have been to most anticipated moment of the day, the arrival of Snoop Dogg, the resident DJ kept the crowd entertained with Michael Jackson songs and reminded everyone of the underlying theme of the day. As the stagehands decorated Snoop Dogg’s set with an array of artificial pot plants, the DJ urged the crowd to fight for the legalization of marijuana. Smoking pot seemed to be the one bond that all the day’s diverse musicians had in common and many in the crowd appeared to be indulging in the forbidden weed.

Snoop Dogg took to the stage in early twilight, with an awesome band of accomplished musicians, an energetic trio of backup rappers, and a small army of stoic-looking black men in suits. Apparently, the Nation of Islam takes care of Snoop’s security these days. Contrary to his cooler than cool image, Snoop Dogg may well be one of the most sophisticated musical geniuses in rap still living today. From Grammy nominations and double platinum album sales, to actor and producer, he certainly is one of the busiest men in the music business. Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. (AKA Snoop Dogg) grew up in South-Central Los Angeles, where he was recruited as a Crip gang member in high school. Right after finishing school he was arrested and served three years in prison for cocaine possession. He began his musical career shortly after being paroled in 1992, under the wing of rap legend Dr Dre, and his career quickly exploded. His music crosses through many old barriers and labels, and has been a staple in discos and nightclubs throughout the United States for nearly two decades. An ecstatic crowd hung on his every word and suggestion, launching a unified salute to every request he made. He even had everyone singing like a church choir by the end of his inspiring set.

If that wasn’t enough musical fodder for fans, the final act of the night brought the music full circle. Slighty Stoopid sauntered onto an ultraviolet-lit stage and exploded into a cacophony of sound. Frenzied fans tossed beach balls, formed mosh pits and danced like jack rabbits from the moment the band began to play. Slightly Stoopid is an immensely popular reggae, surf punk amalgamation band from Ocean Beach. The group has been a rising star in the California reggae fusion genre since 1995. The band was first signed while still in high school by Bradley Nowell, the legendary lead member of the band Sublime. Nowell signed the band to his own label, Skunk Records, shortly before his untimely death in 1996. Since then the band has recorded an impressive library of six studio and two live discs. The band played a myriad of styles, tying together all the great musical elements of the day, including reggae, rap, punk, and even some funk and blues thrown in for good measure. In a recent interview with band member Mike Doughty, I asked him if he had anything he wanted to say to his “Stoopid Head,” or “Ese Loco,” fans in Santa Barbara. He replied, “Thanks for all the love and support and we’ll see you in a minute.”

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

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