Rock and Latin music rub elbows

by Jordan Green

Rock and Latin music rub elbows

Guitarist Jason Sossoman (left) shreds while singer Gregoria D’Voldre performs smoldering vocals during Wicked Jones’ set at the Market Street Music Hall in Greensboro on Dec. 6. (photo by Jordan Green)

The ramp descends from the parking lot behind Fantacity, the international shopping mall on Greensboro’s West Market Street that was refashioned from the idled Guilford Mills. The building below might have once served as a warehouse to store the fabric before shipping it out by rail. Now it more resembles a spacious airplane hangar. If you can find it, hang on tight. For about eight months, it’s been a nightclub called Rumba, says bartender Sara McGlynn. Now, it’s officially known as Market Street Music Hall, even though a banner with the former name still hangs above the doorway. A square, amply stocked liquor bar sets in the middle of the room, a stage sits at the far left and a kitchen and assembly of tables makes up La Fonda Paisa, Martha and Horacio Ramirez’s Colombian restaurant. Every manner of Latin sounds blasts across the floor and urges limbs to movement: salsa, meringue, reggaeton and Mexican cowboy music. And with every venue owner trying to wring as much value out of their enterprise as possible, and with youth tastes as ephemeral and particular as ever, it should come as no surprise that independent promoters herd in the kids for grindcore, death metal, emo and screamo and other variations of the tribal kind of music that is generally required to be played fast, loud and with aggression. There’s an early show and a late show and the patrons pass each other coming and going, but the two scenes remain largely self contained. Tony Oake and his crew sit around a couple of the tables polishing off chicken, plantains, poached eggs, rice and beans. Cigarette smoke spirals up from the tables into the airy room. Tony looks pensive and speaks softly. Like Ruby, his aunt by marriage, Tony wears a black satin jacket inscribed with the company name Oake Promotions. The two somewhat resemble wrestling promoters, or maybe Tony looks like a mafia don with Ruby being the secret power behind the throne. Then there’s Brian Ketison, a younger man wearing a black sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of a band called Anything On Fire. He’s a partner with a separate company, the Takedown Agency, that has steered Oake Promotions some business with Marc Rizzo, the guitarist for the acclaimed metal band Soulfly and an artist in his own right who maintains a grueling touring schedule. There’s a hired photographer named Chris Cockerham, a security guy and another hand in the Oake outfit whose role is not exactly clear. “I was wanting to get the Latino community involved as much as we could,” Tony Oake says, “because here’s one of your own that’s gone to the top. Because Rizzo’s going to get up there and play some flamenco.” “Mark Rizzo’s not Latino,” Ketison says. “He’s from New Jersey. Italian.” The characterization is not entirely inappropriate, however, considering that the artist’s MySpace site describes his music as “metal/Latin/acoustic,” and boasts song titles such as “Milagro,” “Sinceramente” and “Mamasita.” A fair portion of Rizzo’s notoriety comes from his association with bandmate Max Cavalera, with whom Rizzo plays in both Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy.

Max Cavalera foundedthe legendary Brazilian metal band Sepultura with his brother, Iggor,who plays in Cavalera Conspiracy but not Soulfly. Ketison andthe security guy place Sepultura, along with Pantera — whose guitarist“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was killed onstage by a fan after the bandbroke up — above contemporaries Metallica and Megadeth, consideringthem to play with a superior level of intensity, imagination andauthenticity. “Max Cavalera’s like an icon,” Ketison says.“He’s like James Hetfield of Metallica, like Dave Mustaine of Megadeth,like Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Max Cavalera is a god.” It’s about6:30 p.m. Rizzo has been expected at 5 p.m. for load-in. What’s more,there’s not much sign of an audience either, and the hard-rock bandshave to vacate the stage by 9:30 for the Latin DJ.

“I’m waiting,” Tony Oake says. “I’m hoping.” Aboutan hour later he takes a call from Rizzo, who says he’s still two hoursaway. Oake takes it in stride. He’ll get his deposit back, and he sayshe didn’t spend an exorbitant amount on promotion on the front end.He’ll let people know at the door that Rizzo’s not coming and cut theprice in half. Another band has already backed out, so that leaves agroup from Charlotte called Wicked Jones to carry the day. “Theypromised they would do a great job,” Oake says. And they do. Therearen’t more than a dozen people in the audience at first, not countingstaff. The interracial band — singer Gregoria D’Voldre anddrummer Calvin “Manny” Carter are black, while guitarist Jason Sossomanand bassist Jack Carter are white — is throwing down some righteoushard rock replete with monster riffs and testosterone-infusedoperatic-soulful vocals. While D’Voldre’s vocals complementthe metal virtuosity and slamming riffs of his band with aggressivesoul and full-bore blues moaning, he takes the enterprise into the 21st -century with Rage Against the Machine-style rap punctuation. Sossomancalls it “Al Green crossed with G’n’R.” You can call it pile-driversoul. Call it ass-shaking rock and roll. Call it the legacy of JimiHendrix and Little Richard. Call it a band marshalling all theforces of the cosmos. Two of the servers from La Fonda Paisa areteasing a boy up front. Ruby Oake and her nephew are nodding theirheads in time with the music. The kids look happy. “We giveour heart every time no matter how many people we’re in front of,”D’Voldre says before the final song. “I just wanted to let you knowthere are some big things coming up for Wicked Jones we can’t reallytalk about right now. We’re not giving up, as long as you keepsupporting us.”

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