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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Toots brings Roots Rock to Dana

Toots with Union folks ()
Toots with Union folks ()

Toots is an old man. Not an old, old man like your grandfather or Strom Thurmond, but he’s old enough to be the father of almost any student on campus. And though he says that “he is younger than the mountains,” the middle-aged potbelly hanging on his five-foot frame belies the wear that years of roots rock life have put on his physique.But Toots can still sing, and Toots can still move… like no middle-aged (or otherwise) performer that I have ever seen, and he did both on Saturday night in Dana Auditorium.

Most performers these days, regardless of age, are more of the mopey, navel-gazing variety, than the dancing and the blowing kisses to “all you beautiful people in the audience” kind.

Having grown up with the post-punk ethic of trying as hard as you can to look like you’re not having any fun on stage, it’s a beautiful thing to see a performer unabashedly wrapped up in entertaining people.

Uh oh, the “e”-word.
Incredibly enough, the other two bands on Saturday’s bill, Cousin Jimmy, and the tentatively titled Briar Patch (formerly Sankofa), were equally set on moving the small crowd that showed up for their afternoon and early evening sets.

Cousin Jimmy started off their first Guilford show of the year a little rusty. They sounded a bit unsure of themselves until halfway through the second tune, an instrumental titled “E Jam,” when they fell into a groove the whole audience could feel.

They kept the momentum up through two originals, including the new, and well-received, if a bit shaky, “Down By the Riverside,” until technical problems near the beginning of “Chameleon” slowed the show down.

Triad area hip hop group Briar Patch also tried their best to work the tiny, and mostly hungover, crowd. Though there were few there to see them, Cream MC and DJ Pez, backed by an organic trio that looked a lot like Built to Spill, brought an underground feel too much like a Puffy rock remix for my taste, but they more than made up for it with creative arrangements, and stabs at conscious tunes like the love jam “Burgundy Mist,” and the ghetto hope song “Suspended Animation in Time.”

Cream MC also deserves recognition for even attempting to spit conscious rhymes during a freestyle in the “Art of Freestyling.”

Some in the audience criticized Toots for being too commercial, and took his efforts to entertain as a sign of artistic inability or lack of imagination.

But if one looks at him as an originator of reggae (he coined the term with his “Do the Reggay” in 1966), i.e. the way we look to Chuck Berry as the father of rock and roll, or Bill Monroe as the father of bluegrass, you can gain some perspective on his approach to performance.

He may not be the hippest, he may not be the most politically active, he may not even have the artistic bent to pick thought-provoking covers (who still covers “Louie, Louie”?!?), but Toots is one of the best alive at what he does, which is to get a party started.

P.S. Good lookin’ out to Union for bringing in such a great performer.

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