Friday, March 10, 2006

Kool and the Gang

Last Sunday night I watched Kool and the Gang perform at the Java Jazz Festival. Their music was very popular while I was growing up in Ghana back in the 80’s. Hits like Fresh, Cherish, Ladies Night, and Celebrate were played at every party and even around the house by my older siblings. I saw them perform once back in 1989, but I have heard very little of Kool since then. I was pretty excited to watch them n action again and maybe revive some of those youthful memories.

They were scheduled to come on at 9.45 so we got there well in advance. I wanted to check out some other stuff first as well. We were told there would be a delay and at 10 I saw that the band which was on before them (Incognito) was still jamming on stage. We hung around and found a real bar that served real booze down in the basement. We even caught some impressive acts and saw Eric Bennet running around taking pictures. The poor bastard is mostly remembered as the dude was married to Halle Berry. I would settle for that as well.

They finally opened the doors to the hall at about 12, and even when we rushed in the roadies were still doing a sound check. At this point, after 3 days at the festival, I was ready to throw in the towel and head home. I had been out every night till at least 4am and it was catching up with me. One of the guys in my group actually did bail out and head home but I figured that since I have come this far I better just suck it up and steady through. I spent 45 minutes sitting on the floor listening to the sound check, “test… test… one two… one two… test… test…”. This was the amazing view I had.

My spirit was sinking, and fast. I wanted to go home and get into bed. Then the lights went up and the trumpets blared. I stood up and saw a group of black men dressed in all white running out onto the stage. The energy was awesome. I was sucked into the moment. I can’t remember the first track they played but I know I was moving to the beat. The band looked larger than when I had last seen them, and definitely a lot older. However the guy who was singing seemed a lot younger than the rest. And man was he good!!!

The band interacted with each other and had a very fun vibe. This projected directly on to the audience as well. One by one, each member had the chance to step up and play solo. Some of the older guys also had their old classics which they sang themselves. It seems that they have become more of an act now, and in a good way. Rather than the band and name dying out as the original members get too old, they are introducing younger and equally talented musicians into the band that will continue the trend. That seems pretty lucrative to me.

As most funk bands do, they had some pretty cool dance moves. They would all step into a line and spin off or do the Re-Run. There was one lanky bloke in particular who always succeeded in getting the crowd worked up. He must have been as old as my Dad but the guy was like a lighting bolt with legs and a big white smile. He would run across the stage dancing, play insane solos on his muffled trumpet, and at one point even pulled a somersault into a cartwheel across the stage.

Where is Kool? That is what I kept thinking. I am sure other people have had similar thoughts because half way through the band pulled him forward and introduced him. He was the poor bastard standing in the back playing bass guitar. He did however come forward and sing a song. It was obvious that the band was not centered on him and they performed more as a unit, although I did sense the seniors commanded more respect. It was very harmonious though and Kool was given an amazing reception by the Indonesian audience.

It must have been at least 2am when I felt the show was coming to an end and decided to head out before the crowd did. And surprisingly there was still a huge crowd there. I had not felt bored or tired even once doing the show. The music was remarkable and the show full of power. The set list was ideal to say the least. They played all the right music at the right time. In between they played a Caribbean sounding beat called Oh La La La, and that just took me back to the beach. Although the delay was an absolute pain in the ass and a total fuck up from the organizers side, I am glad I stuck it out and watched this performance. These guys are every bit as entertaining as they were 15 years ago, if not more!

This was the perfect end to the perfect week and I have been unnaturally positive this week because of it. For those of you who did not attend the festival, you really missed out.


Shan said...

Ooh Eric Benet *slurp* ...Dammit!

Avi said...

you seriously dig him? you really missed out then cause on the last night we were in a room where the dj was spinning. there was only about 25-30 people there and eric was just chillin in the crowd with some hot indo chick.

AmitD said...

Hey, i got better things to do than attend some jazz festival you hyea? for example, I was.....errr watching tv, and errrrrr staring at the ceiling and, errrrrr aw hell I missed out man!!

Shan said...


kubolo bway said...

yeah i remember Kool & the gang coming to Accra back in the 80s, they have some classics out there that could live forever, must have been a great concert to be at.