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Irie, Bru and friends throw down at SWET

by Ryan Snyder

If you couldn’t find something to get down to at the Somewhere Else Tavern on Saturday night, then you might as well have turned in your music fan card on the way out. A veritable who’s-who of Triad-area performers showed up on behalf of Mightier Than the Sword Records, Iconoclast Studios and Sugar Hill Entertainment, with styles ranging from island to funk, breakbeats to soul and hip hop to garage rock. Though the crowd was a little on the thin side for most of the night, it almost seemed to have replenished itself with completely new faces every time a new act went on stage.

With eight different shows spread out over the course of the four-and-a-half-hour bill, there might have been a packed house had everyone decided to remain. Dub-rock vocalist Matt Irie (www.myspace.com/ mattirie) juiced up the audience with a little island flair in an abbreviated set, but still enough time to get most of those posted up at the bar out of their seats and onto the dancefloor. Rapper Ty Bru (www.myspace.com/tybru) came on to provide support for Irie, one of the newest faces on the Mightier Than the Sword Label. He was followed onstage by two of his labelmates Medic (www. myspace.com/hooddoctor) and Tenacious (www.myspace.com/princenainoa), who came out with Jekyll and Hyde distinction; Medic with a smooth, clever flow and Tenacious as rugged and aggressive as his name implies. Fresh off the production set of Timothy B. Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name, rapper, poet and now actor Mr. Rozzi (www.myspace.com/mrrozzi) delivered a pointed, vigorous performance, bounding around stage with a relentless energy. Vanessa Ferguson lent her support to Rozzi’s set and showed off talents that lies somewhere between Ladybug Mecca and MC Lyte. Bru even popped his head on stage to spit a few more lines and in the process, convinced me that he might be the closest thing the Triad Music scene has to a Warren Haynes. He’s not afraid to get on stage with anyone, pulls extra duty with artist intros and even fills dead time with slick freestyles. If he’s not the hardest working man in our local scene, I’d love to meet the guy who is. Bru’s own set with teammates Ed E. Ruger and DJ Phillie Phresh, otherwise known as Brown Bag Special (www. myspace.com/brownbagspecialmusic), followed, though the venue’s sound issues became the unintentional focal point of one of the most anticipated acts of the evening. Phillie Phresh was rendered almost null by a mixer that couldn’t be heard, though a swaggering Ruger, rejuvenated Bru and guest Stitchy C were fine with carrying the load. High school-aged rockers Nugget (www.myspace.com/ nuggetnc) gave a peformance that made me want to eat my own words from a less-than-stellar album review a few weeks ago.

Their show was humorous, funky and by far the loudest of the evening. The young trio brought everything they had, from a Super Mario Bros. theme tease to a hardcore ode to Taco Bell. Charlotte-area DJ and producer Mindelixir (www.myspace.com/mindelixir) and collaborator the Midnight Ace (www. myspace.com/themidnightace) could kill huge rooms in the biggest cities, but put out some of the most mesmerizing beats that the SWET has ever seen before a group of no more than 25 people. Mindelixir himself is a big part of a new movement in electronic music known as dub-step, which fuses breakbeats, drum-and-bass and low-end funk to create a sound that is expected to play a big part in mainstream hip hop in the coming year. Winston-Salem jazz-hip hop outfit the SoloS Unit (www. myspace.com/solosunit) took the stage next with MC Mr. Mohalyn reminding the crowd, “No, I am not T-Pain.” That was obvious once he took his turn on the mic, as he could actually sing and rap.

The sextet seamlessly blended smooth, accessible jazz-funk with the aggressive lyrical styles of Mohalyn and Renaissance, while almost entirely avoiding the sound problems that plagued most of the sets. And then there was Jeremy Johnson (www.myspace.com/jjjthemovement). The Greensboro soul impresario might be small in stature, but he’s a giant as an entertainer. The few who stuck around until the end of the night received by far the most heartfelt performance of the evening. There might have been 15 people in the audience by that point, but Johnson poured it all out as if there were 500. Not in need of a backing band, Johnson captivated the crowd with the power of his own voice and the musical tracks coming over the house PA. He did bring Bru and Rozzi on stage for a brief appearance, but was comfortable in dominating the stage in his own right. Do yourself a favor and check him out with the the Soul Brothers Band, a James Brown tribute band. I know they’re at the top of my local music checklist.

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