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Live From Old York: Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Penetration, Juan Martín, Ugly Duckling & She'Koyokh

Live From Old York: Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Penetration, Juan Martín, Ugly Duckling & She'Koyokh
Martin Longley By

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Lee 'Scratch' Perry
Fibbers
March 13, 2014

A legend of reggae music, at home in a small club, with a crammed crowd. This was Lee 'Scratch' Perry's second visit to Fibbers, and judging by his onstage comments, he really digs the joint. Scratch is a legend on several levels, from producer to performer, notably working with Bob Marley, right at the beginning, then developing into reggae's prime innovator, plunging into deep dubby waters as he operated out of his own Black Ark studio. Upsetter was his record label, and The Upsetters were his band. Perry also shaped the rootsy wobbles of Max Romeo, Junior Murvin, The Heptones and The Congos. Working alongside English dub extremist Adrian Sherwood, Perry's creations got even freakier, highlighting his utterly unique stream-of-verbiage toastings. Some folks believe that he's mentally on an alternative plane, but Scratch appeared very directly focused during this gig, backed by his combo of keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. Scratch appears to have regular bandmates in whichever country he's touring, and this crew are a touch older than his Stateside cohorts, more steeped in 1970s reggae tradition. Sometimes Perry offers brief sets, and doesn't seem completely enthusiastic, but on this night he was front-of-stage for the duration, consistently conjuring up a wordy ramble. Initially, the motion was bereft of that desired special coalescence, the club's atmosphere quite restrained. It took an extraordinary long while for the Upsetter's vocals to reach a decent level in the mix, so it was useful to move around the space, investigating the differing acoustics. Not as much bass up at the back, but the mix was more democratic. Even so, a move back down to the front was necessary: better to be flooded with bass, ultimately. Around the halfway point, leader and band locked into their chugging groove, dipping into a ska skip, then getting slower and more hypnotic with the wacky "Inspector Gadget." At 77 years, Scratch was brimming with energy, constantly pacing back and forth across the stage, garbed in his shaman cap, which was barnacled with shiny disc-talismans, a huge jewel perched on its brim. His microphone was wrapped in a customised holder with another huge metal disc attached, and every Perry finger was encircled by a chunky ring. "Exodus" became "Sexodus" (not the M.I.A. incarnation), as Scratch rolled into his extended peak number, bandmates digging in to a rumbling, unstoppable skank. Returning for a brief encore, this was one of the Upsetter's longer sets, with nearly 90 minutes onstage, most of that filled with his continually creative tongue-twisting.

Penetration
Fibbers
March 14, 2014

The next night made it a punky reggae coupling at Fibbers, with one of the UK's prime purveyors during the 1976 Mohican uprising. It's almost four decades since Penetration played their first gig, and their energy charge remains potent, now that they've been activated for their second period, post-2001. Manchester foursome Obsessive Compulsive preceded Penetration, delivering a forceful, committed set of punk ditties that were moderately conventional in structure and subject matter, but engorged by a full-tilt delivery, singer Kelli combining humour and threat in close succession, whilst guitarist Giz (this band favours first name terms) spewed out several capsule solos, too low in the mix, but still audibly acidic. Their "No Logo" was notably sincere in its anthemic assault.

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