Photos by Dan Peacock
Thursday night, March 29th. On the ebb of an uprising in nation wide protests and civil activity, the Flobots and Antibalas (Spanish for anti-bullets) carry the surge at a renovated Washington’s. The venue continues to sport its patented stain glass window depicting Washington himself, who hangs proudly over Laporte Ave. The energy was awesome, with hands that wouldn’t go down, swaying bodies everywhere, and endless waves of jumping.
Flobots opened the night, and if it wasn’t for the promise of an Antibalas journey after the break, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the audience take to the streets. Jamie ‘Jonny 5’ Laurie and Brer Rabbit brought their nearly 20 years of experience as a band, and top three nation wide track record to get the crowd ready to rebel. Top tracks like “Handlebars,” “Rise,” and “The Circle In The Square” proceeded themselves, and brought Flobots’ unique ability to open the mind to what’s going on in a way that spawns activism.
During the intermission, Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit followed up their performance with a face to face with their fans. Brer welcomed everyone asking for a name, and if you are a “hugger.” He reminisced about studying Philosophy at CSU, and reflected on his time as a Ram. Jonny mentioned how involved they had become with the rapidly growing Fort Collins Music District, and that they often worked with the Bohemian Foundation to schedule local gigs like this one. There’s no doubt these two truly world renowned musicians and atomic activists still have a heart in the Fort Collins music scene.
And then, Antibalas. The band emerged with their usual abnormality, with enough horns to scare away another band, a funky key board, various realms of percussion, and Duke Amayo – complete with colorful turban. The whole band was splattered with colors and patterns – not just due to Washington’s incredible lighting – but with robes and suits that suggested a multi-ethnic Sargent Pepper brigade.
Antibalas is one of those bands that are simply impossible to peg under one, or even three single genres. If you have an ear for afrobeat, you’ll recognize their backbone rhythm, percussive elements, and melody. It’s in their trumpets, tenor and baritone saxophone, keyboard and various only Antibalas tangents and runs where you can find their heavy influences of funk, jazz, and even ska, to name a few. But that’s not what one thinks about during the set. In fact, it took a good ten minutes into the first song to realize this was less of a concert, and more a mass, peaceful, and viscerally rhythmic hypnotism. It seemed impossible for a stage housing a dozen fully participating musical minds to melt and transition with such subconscious smoothness.
During various segments throughout the concert, Amayo would take the crowd on these elaborate spiritual guidances – not always in English. He would lead us from a story or a chant into an instrumental trap – often involving a horn or congas that would break the trance and spring everyone into a flowery ruckus. There wasn’t a moment where, amongst the swaying bodies, one didn’t feel the immersive pool of an all encompassing community swallowed by music.