7.45pm, Wednesday January 4, Marrickville, NSW. Australia. The scene was reminiscent of the first moments of the opening seconds of Damian Marley's 2007 MTV film clip, "Welcome to Jamrock": cue low-flying Emirates jet, landing gear down, turbines roaring directly overhead as it closed in on the runway of Charles Kingsford-Smith airport less than a kilometre to my right. I'm standing in the carpark of live music venue The Factory, just a couple of clicks south of Sydney's CBD, waiting for the lady in the ticket box to wave me forward.

 

Figuring it was as good a time as any to check my early arriving, concert-going cohorts dotted around the carpark, I glanced around to see a rich tapestry (yes tapestry) of dreadlocks. Dread heads, hippies sporting old school cool, people in the know and students in giraffe suits congregated in small groups greeting each other with handshakes ranging from the homegrown, single pump and fist bump to the more intricate, five movement soul shakes most often seen in the NBA. Oddly enough, you could see people smoking cigarettes but wafts of ganja drifted around the entrance near the ticket box. Such anomalies are not uncommon at reggae gigs.

 

Tonight, New York-based dub ambassors will be holding court on the main stage of the Factory theatre. They'll be ably supported by the "Kamikazi Thunderkats" about whom I heard encouraging reports from others who, likewise, were standing in the carpark... not watching them.

 

A couple of drinks with Frieda's Boss alternate, Mick Fink, during which time we witnessed the dimunitive ESAS bass player lead the rest of the band towards the green room. We felt ready to make good on a promise to FB's European correspondent, Tinni Fwerele, to see this superb reggae collective live and direct. Mission accomplished, here's how it all went down.

 

ESAS sauntered on stage to a rolling crescendo of equal parts applause, whooping from the full house and the front man giving full voice to his affection for Sydney: "We Love you, SYDNEEEY!!!" This would be a recurring theme.

 

As an aside, reggae fans know they're in good hands when the bass player saunters up to his bass rig and then disappears behind it's massive frame. Cool.

 

Tonight's line-up featured a two-piece horn section (trombone and sax), Ras I Ray on bass and lead vocal, Shelton Garner jr on guitar, keys, drums, MC Menny More toasting (Bo!) with sweet and energetic backing vox present and correct.

 

Prior to unleashing "Dubside of the Moon" in all its glory upon an adoring, dreaded up assemblage, we were treated to a triumphant cover of "Money"... with the odd flirtation in 7/8 time signature to keep the purists amused. It was during this sojourn down the rabbit hole that the inaudible signal for "dreads out" was given as Ras I Ray unfurled his intimidating 4.5 ft dreads. This put everyone onstage in clear and present danger as Ray got mobile, creating the hirsuit pendulum of death during the dub crescendo, Bo!

 

Without giving the audience time to catch their breath, it was all aboard the ska express as we took a tour of Radiohead and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Dub Band. Alot going on here and it was peak hour at the mixing desk as reverbs and delays were layered, transformed and layered again: "where am I?!"

 

"I Get by with a Little Help From my Friends" brought a smile to many faces as mysterious, fragrant plumes of smoke erupted randomly across the dance floor near the front of the stage. Cue knowing glances but it seemed that no one was crossing any lines given the circumstances.

 

Once again the love for Sydney was reaffirmed as the set was called to a close, but we knew that an encore was only moments away.

 

Okay. The encore. For me it got better, once we got past a cover of "Redemption Song" that was more Craig David than Bob. Picky? Perhaps, but things like the sun, uranium, unstable elements such as potassium, salad and certain Marley tracks should be left well alone. In the case of the sacred tracks, they should be reproduced faithfully without embellishment or not at all (Fugees! No Woman No Cry? Really?!)

 

Moving on.

 

"Love You Rita" and "I Lost Myself" rounded out the evening beautifully. If you like your reggae, ska and dub heavily spiced with mind-bending innovation and riotous musicianship that is just off the chain, you could do a lot worse than forking out to see the All Stars live.

 

Thanks Tinni. Bo!

 

Train