Last night was the Ozomatli concert at World Cafe Live here in Philly.* Wow. I mean, really, WOW. My legs hurt from all the dancing. And let’s just say that my bike ride into work today was not the most pleasant. But I have the Ozo buzz going on, and like usual, it should last a few days. Woot!
Ozomatli is this wonderful fusion of Latin, hip hop, funk, punk, Middle Eastern sound and other random world music. It’s beautiful. And very dance-able. You can’t help but have a lot of fun. And the band is always high energy. You can tell they’re really enjoying themselves up there. I brought a new Ozo fan to the show, AH, and she commented on how the entire band was smiling the entire show. It’s obvious they’re having a good time, which means the audience has a good time. She was particularly impressed with the coordinated dancing done by the band…both halves of the stage jumping and dancing in sync, often while playing instruments. Um, wow. Not an easy thing to do, but I’ve seen it happen every show.
The other truly beautiful thing about Ozo is the diversity of the audience they attract. Their music is such an eclectic blend of styles that they attract and eclectic blend of people. Looking around from my spot in the front and slightly to the right of center, I saw a wide range of ages (including set of parents that brought their son), races, backgrounds, styles, and dancing abilities. A true cross-section of society, much like the band themselves (a very diverse group of guys).
Ozo has a new album out, Don’t Mess with the Dragon, and most of the set was from it. They even started with one of the songs off it: “City of Angels.” They came on stage and set the show to be their typical high energy let’s all have a good time and dance the night away right from the first drumbeat. WOW, they so rock.
[How many times can I say wow in one post? Let’s find out, shall we??]
Mid-set they did a weird little mix of songs from the ’80s like Blondie’s “The Tide is High” and a few others that were like a trippy little journey down memory lane. And of course the audience sang along. What’s freaky is that we all knew the words.
What’s equally as freaky is that I still remember how to do the electric slide. The little trip down memory lane was just to prime the crowd. For “After Party,” Ozo challenged the audience to dance the electric slide for the entire song. And, ’cause Philly rocks, we did it. “After Party” is one of my favorite songs off the new album. You just can’t go wrong with a song about coming together and enjoying yourselves. It’s a bit more mellow than most of their stuff, but with the same let’s-all-have-a-good-time-vibe and rockin’ beat that makes Ozo so much fun. Again, WOW. I love this song and it’s even better live. [But then, isn’t everything better live with Ozo??]
“Magnolia Soul” and “Violeta” are two of their social justice focused songs on the new album. For those of you that don’t know, Ozomatli is from Los Angeles, and they have a serious social justice aspect to what they do and their music. These news ones are absolutely incredible songs. “Magnolia Soul” is a funk-inspired song that highlights the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the resilience of New Orleans in the aftermath. The ballad of “Violeta” echoes the tragedy of life lost in war, on both sides, making it an incredibly moving song. “Violeta” was one of the few ballads they played during the set. So much of Ozo’s repertoire is high energy, that when they do have a ballad it’s particularly noticeable. In this case, it is also particularly moving. They also played “Temperatura,” which address immigration. Again, attacking political issues via an inspired and upbeat tune with some serious rabble-rousing lyrics.
The mixed some of their classics (or even vintage) tunes in with the songs from the new album. True old school songs like “Eva” and “Misma Cancion” were interspersed between new stuff. They played two of my all time favorites: “Believe” and “Ya Viene el Sol,” which aren’t really old school but definitely classic Ozo. And as always with these songs, WOW.
At the end of every show, the whole band grabs various percussion instruments and horns and heads off the stage into the crowd for a jam session. No joke. EVERY SHOW. Often, this is where it ends, because there’s no place else to go. This time, however, it only started as a circle in the middle of the dance floor. Wil-dog (bass player extraordinare…can you salsa dance, jump and strum all at the same time without missing a beat or a chord? Yeah, I didn’t think so) led the band in a line snaking its way through the crowd and out into the lobby where they took up residence on the steps and jammed for a bit more.
Once they were finally done (exhausted, maybe?), they all stuck around to chat with the audience and sign whatever people gave them. Really, WOW. They even included a tear out sheet in the booklet for Don’t Mess with the Dragon that promised they’d all sign it if you brought it to a show. So I did. And I got it signed by everyone (except Asdru, vocals/trumpet, who disappeared). Along with the set-list I managed to snag off the stage at the end of the show. Go me!
So life is good. I may be tired and sore, but, damn, what a party! My Ozo buzz is still going strong (fueled a bit by my iPod), but, seriously, WOW. What more is there to say besides THANK YOU to Ozomatli for a bloody awesome and absolutely rockin’ and intensely high energy show!??!!
*Note: pictures will be posted over on my Flickr account later tonight, so go check them out! Be warned, the on stage shots of the guys were taken with my camera phone (flash photography prohibited by the venue), so the quality isn’t excellent, but hell, they’re pics of the band!