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Concert Review: Rootz Underground

September 15, 2009

The Rootz Underground’s show on Sunday night (September 13th) at the Flamingo Cantina probably ranks as one of the most fun and craziest concert experiences of my life so far.  We ended up with some priceless stories to tell, thanks to the band, and also to the fact that we showed up so early.  We’d been waiting around outside the doors since about 8 pm and the band didn’t take the stage until 10:30, so we had plenty of time for people-watching and meeting new folks.  But that was okay because as a club, the Flamingo Cantina ranks among the best in Austin.  They’re serving up homemade food, it’s clean, well-maintained, and the sound system is great without blowing out your eardrums.  Also, they have an excellent roof area, perfect for star-gazing with an unbeatable overhead view of the stage.  (A tip for non-smokers: you may want to avoid the roof until after the show starts; there are also bleachers downstairs for sitting.)

Once the crowd filled in and the show started, the band was on fire from the beginning.  The lead singer, Stephen Newland, is a live wire on stage, firing up the audience with enthusiasm, passion, and charisma.  He manages to pull off some kick-ass jumping and dancing (definitely Marley-esque at times) without missing a beat vocally, and he was all over the place playing up audience, most of whom were huge fans (including a very, very excited girl who spent the entire concert flirting with the band members from the dance floor – you’ll hear her screaming in the video).  And actually, one of the best parts about the show was how small it was because it gave the audience a chance to feel connected to the band, and by the end, there wasn’t a single person there who wasn’t feeling their vibe.  Although personally, I can’t wait to see them perform in a festival environment to a bigger crowd.  (More review after the jump!)

The band themselves, Jeffrey Moss-Solomon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Colin Young (bass), Leon Campbell (drums), Paul Smith (keyboards, vocals) and Charlie Lazarus (lead guitar), are impressive, cranking out rock-influenced reggae jams and coordinating stage moves that amped up the audience even more.  For a fairly young band, the Rootz Underground are pretty tight live, and when there were minor sound issues, they dealt with it like pros.  They played for an hour and a half, running through most of the tracks from their free live album, Alive (available as a download from their website), songs from Movement (check out all my posts about Rootz, including my review of Movement), and they threw in a couple of new songs as well.  Highlights from the set were the band’s new single, “Power to the People”, “Herb Fields”, “20 Centuries”, “Farming”, “Time is an Illusion”, and “Victims of The System”.

After the show, the band was kind enough to stick around and take pictures with people.  I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Charlie (the guitarist) and he volunteered Stephen for a couple-of-minutes long interview.  Both Charlie and Stephen were completely down to earth and extraordinarily cool people (not just to me, but to all the fans who stuck around after the show) and that’s how I got the best shout out of all time on video.  Yeah, that’s right!

I didn’t want to keep Stephen long, so I kept it short, but check out my video to see the interview and a piece of “Time is an Illusion”.  Thanks again to Seanningham.com for the video editing and graphics.  And if you haven’t already, you need to check out the Rootz Underground’s albums and see them live as soon as possible!

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