Easy Star All-Stars to play free concert today in Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — At the Howelsen Hill tonight, eight members of the reggae outfit Easy Star All-Stars will take the stage.
But a ninth member, with no less important of a role in the rhythmic beat pounding from the speakers, will be hidden behind a soundboard.
Called “the alchemist” by his bandmates, Justin Filmer is the band’s dub engineer, responsible for more than just the quality of the sound.
Drummer Ivan Katz said Filmer’s electronic work elevates the live music experience.
“Dub is a whole style of reggae where it kind of came about when you have an instrumental and the engineer experiments with all sorts of echo effects and reverbs,” Katz said. “It takes it to the next level. Let’s say you’re having a great show, but then all of a sudden you get this really cool lighting effect or something. It’s like that, but it’s with sonic landscapes instead.”
Katz will provide the heartbeat behind the guitar, bass, keyboard, DJ, vocals and horn sections in the third installment of the Free Summer Concert Series at Howelsen Hill. The show starts at 6 p.m. with DJ Also Starring.
Concert series co-founder John Waldman said he wanted to bring the All-Stars back to Steamboat Springs after an energized set at the Bud Light Rocks the Boat free concert series in March.
“They were so amazing, we decided to bring them back,” Waldman said. “Just the way they took these well-known classic records, classic albums … their unique take on it was so amazing with putting a dub/reggae vibe to it. The vocals were so strong, and it was a great, great show.”
The Easy Star All-Stars are known for playing psychedelic rock favorites in the dub style of reggae, but they’re doing more than just covering Pink Floyd, Radiohead and the Beatles.
According to Michael Goldwasser, the band’s co-founder, musical director and studio guitarist, the tribute albums “Dub side of the Moon,” “Radiodread” and “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band” are a revision and a re-envisioning of the original arrangements.
“I think there’s a good confluence of fans who like kind of psychedelic rock music and also reggae,” he said. “No one else had actually put it together like we had before. On average, I can spend about six months just writing arrangements. It’s out of respect to the artist.”
And ultimately, through the sale of more than 300,000 records and praise from Pink Floyd band members and Thom Yorke, of Radiohead, Goldwasser said he “felt good” about the tribute albums. Intermingled with the familiar tunes, the band also has a repertoire of original reggae tunes. They will release their first full-length original album in early 2011.
While the rotating band members come from all across the world and different musical backgrounds, each shares a love of reggae and an appreciation for the engineered dub sound.
Katz said the reggae sound has the capability of grabbing onto its listeners unlike any other musical genre.
“It gives me goosebumps,” Katz said about his passion for reggae. “It’s a very sincere music. Reggae wasn’t created to make money or sell records. It was a true expression of the people. The rhythm and the feeling coming from a Caribbean influence also has a warmth to it.”
Waldman said the group’s vibe will fit in with the Free Summer Concert Series model even better than it did at the March show, when Katz played his first outdoor gig in 30-degree weather with a backdrop of snow.
Katz said he was speaking for the entire band when he said they were looking forward to their return to Steamboat Springs.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “But the people — most important — are beautiful people.”
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