GUITAR harmonies zig-zagged at the speed of rock music during the concert, Love+Lazers earlier this month.
The concert featured unsigned rock bands who played to a capacity crowd at Red Bones Cafe in Kingston, affirming that a space exists for alternative music in Jamaica. It was a space paired with angst, fashion, beauties and tom-boys. The Catherine Williams-promoted event garnered over 300 patrons who came out to listen to mainly original music from bands which included Crimson Heart Replica headed by Williams, Jason Worton, Sezi, Robot Taxi and Akmatik.
The alternative scene continues to develop in Jamaica from mostly cover-bands in the '90s to mainly original singles in 2010. However, these bands still remain heavily influenced by US rock and pop, and fail to acknowledge the harmonic possibilities within Brazilian pop-rock (Milton Nascimento); the scalar shifts of Indian electronica rock (Karsh Kale & Midival Punditz); the Malian other-worldly desert blues solos (Ali Farka Toure), the noise of Scandinavian rock (Lordi); the bitter-sweet of Japanese rock (Sheena Ringo); and others.
Akmatik's performance was a continuous sneeze -- releasing the most energy for the night. This rap and rock group even had a mascot with cape and paper-plate mask. It created slight mystery to this group which has been fairly new on the scene. The group's finale involved death metal-inspired screams and shouts with lyrics of love and peace.
Robot Taxi influenced in part by US band Incubus, played originals which showcased sonic and clear vocals of lead singer Fabian Pinkney. He was backed by the zig and zag guitar melodies of Vernon DaCosta and Daniel Hew. "Like a wooden doll with no balls," Pickney sang to howls from the crowd. Interestingly the drummer Akiri Cooper played with one-hand due to an injury on his other hand which alluded to the one-armed Def Leppard drummer.
The bassist Andre Dennis secured the band with solid grooves.
In performance, Worton sang in the style of Jack Johnson with the guitar attack of a blues soloist. He played as he looked: decked in sun shades at night with a Hendrix army jacket. Worton's song structures have a guitar-to-voice ratio of 2:1 in favour of guitar solos. Digging into the belly of his Les Paul guitar his fingers danced within the pentatonic box following the tradition of '60s legends which made his instrument famous including Jimmy Paige. Worton additionally added stage antics while soloing including the behind-the-head and teeth-picking licks. The audience howled in support.
Crimson Heart Replica started with distorted chord progressions built on airy suspensions. Her dirty cigarette-chords were produced by constant strumming on six-strings (in opposition to the technical fifths and octaves played on two-strings--popularised in '80s guitar). In Heart For Me, Williams sang with emo-inspired lyrics over a possible I-IV-V progression. Williams was decked in full black, skull cap and a bandana fashionably hanging from her sagging jeans. Her axe was a sunburst PRS guitar complemented by a series of star tattoos on her strumming arm, and lips inked on her neck.
"I am from Kingston ....they see my tattoos and don't know what to do," she sang to a heavy bass dub groove.
Her emo-rock lyrics are love poems about angst and loss. Williams not yet 25, is a mix of Avril Lavigne meets Sade. Or Patty Griffith meets Blink182. But her sound is an evolution of the Jamaican underground, sort of the child of Jovi Rockwell, where no one knows if the baby-daddy is Rootz Underground or Downstairs. Truth is she resembles many, yet seems to be directed to her own course. At a previous jam, she nailed a Sade cover, then jumped (unrehearsed) into a Sizzla tune -- singing even the third verse. Her blend of pop and grit allows her to win-over drinkers at bars who make more noise than performers.
The artsy fan base of Williams appears to be growing as she inverted the underground at Susey's Bar a few months ago. In January Williams also spearheaded a fairly well-attended Haiti relief concert. Its growth from her earlier house parties where live-music would ring out until 2:00 am in her upper-Kingston neighbourhood. Silhouettes would stand by windows and doors absorbing sound eventually forming a semi-circle around singers and guitars, lit by a humble lamp.