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Lee Perry in Wales

Lee Perry in Wales

Lee Perry in Wales

By on - Photos by Emma-Louise - Comment

Report of Lee Scratch Perry and Dub Party in Cardiff, UK.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is a man who needs no lengthy introduction or even a massive amount of promotion to draw crowds at his shows. Having previously headlined the Kaya Festival in North Wales back in early summer, this is his 2nd performance in Wales this year and was put on by the lovely people at ‘SWN’.

Lee Perry

The venue for tonight’s show is an unusual one. The ‘Glee Club’ situated in the middle of the Mermaid Quay complex in Cardiff Bay, complete with a shiny glass fronted exterior and white-washed walls it all seems a bit too immaculate and perhaps clinical for a gig of this nature. However as you reach the top of the shiny escalator you can vaguely make out some familiar beats. Tensions are relieved as soon after entering the room fully and the bass line hits you. People are settled nicely around the outskirts bobbing in time along with the tracks.

The support act is local band Dub Party, a great infusion of dub & hip-hop, these gifted guys have gone from busking the streets of Cardiff to supporting a one of the creators and architects of the genre. United Reggae managed catch up with Jonny Ascari (guitar and vocals) just before the band hit the stage…

So...you're supporting Lee 'Scratch' Perry tonight, you must be pretty excited?

JONNY: Yes, of course. Scratch is a legend of music history, so it's an honour to support a man who had such an influence on our style. It feels as if it's going to be as close as we can get to meeting the great Bob Marley himself.

You got to hang out with the man himself backstage, what was that like?

Dub PartyJONNY: I have to say, although the man has been a massive inspiration for us musically and many other Worldwide artists, he's completely bonkers. I've seen interviews with him on TV so I had an idea of his character, but I still don't think I was expecting to see him spraying lightbulbs with what I think was aftershave?!

I think I'm quite good at understanding patois, but his accent is very strong so I found it difficult to understand what he was saying at points. He's quite funny though. I'm not sure whether he intended to be funny or whether we were laughing at him in general, but we had a good time.

So you guys started out as a trio busking in Cardiff? How did you guys form the 9 piece that you are now?

JONNY: Yeh, we started out with guitar, sax and me on drums. People started asking us where they could come and watch us do a show but we weren't performing in venues and we didn't have any songs. We just made it up and jammed for hours. We had various musicians stopping by with their instruments, mainly horns, as well as vocalists joining in so we met a lot of people that way.

It got to the point where we decided we should do it properly and so we got in another drummer, bass player and permanent vocalist. I switched to guitar and vocals and after that we filled some gaps where we decided we need another sound. Now, we're a 9-piece, well-oiled, reggae/hip-hop machine.

Anything else exciting planned for 'Dub Party' in the near future?

JONNY: Currently, myself and Buster are out on tour with the Easy Star All-Stars, but after our return in December, our main plan is to get in the studio early next year. It's about time we got these tunes recorded - people are always asking where they can buy our music, but unfortunately we haven't had the money for studio time. We'll try and get 5 or so songs done - that should be enough for the meantime.

We've also been building our contacts and now have a few connections to get us in on the festival circuit, so fingers crossed we can pull that off. I've always thought we'd go down well at festivals.

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They draw the crowd in closer as they played through a funky, upbeat and original set and they even threw in some cheeky covers including an Augustus Pablo number and a seriously groovy version of ‘Brickhouse’ by the Commodores -  MC Oort Keiper and Cookey certainly bring a strong hip hop flavour to this smartly dressed dub outfit.

The DJ for the night is Cardiff’s very talented Don Leisure who spins some brilliantly selected tunes and keeps the crowd energised whilst waiting for the headline act.

The Upsetters take their places and the crowd eagerly gather closely around the edge of the stage. It’s an intimate gig with no barriers or pit to separate the audience from the action – it’s up close and personal. They play through an instrumental medley of ‘Secret Laboratory’ and ‘Roast Fish and Cornbread’ among others. 

Lee PerryThe microphone lead twitches and Scratch’s’ vocals can be heard off-stage (allegedly Scratch had 75m of cable to allow him to engage with the crowd from backstage) the curtain moves and he emerges pulling a little red suitcase.

Wearing one of his infamously outrageous outfits – complete with a bright pink beard, hair & suit to match, coupled with big boots that had ‘L$D IFM’ written in bling and an equally sparkly hat that sits on his head like a glittering crown. Upon closer inspection the hat is decorated with little trinkets, mirrors, badges and pictures of Haile Selassie.   

After an entrance filled with slightly incoherent ramblings such as I conquer bad luck...I conquer unluck…I conquer the chicken…I conquer the duck.” he introduces himself and it’s not long before he’s up to his usual quirky stage antics. (Dropping the lead out of the back of the microphone tends to be a particular favourite throughout the evening)

It’s fascinating to watch people’s reactions to his behaviour, and have come to the following conclusion; people (especially the younger generations) will pay to come to see Scratch no matter what he does on stage, in fact his peculiar behaviour seems to have become part of the attraction. With tickets costing a fair amount and his previous admission that he still tours at the age of 76 to financially aid his wife and her luxurious lifestyle he seems to be onto a winner – an audience who got what they paid for and an even happier wife.

He has such control over his audiences, and they are so willing to indulge his every command. From hoping on one leg and stroking his boots, to holding a lighter high and touching his hand. However Scratch is also more than happy to humour his audience in return – he gets handed a slightly broken umbrella which he takes on as a prop, dancing and walking around the stage with it before finally placing it in the microphone stand.

During his hour and a half set, he takes a break from ‘educating’ the audience in between songs on morality, right from wrong, do’s and don’ts etc (which is interesting as he claims to no longer smoke or drink alcohol, yet he posed and allowed himself to be photographed backstage complete with spliff in hand. That coupled with a booze ridden rider leads one to questions Scratch’s integrity on the subject.) It’s not long and it’s more than the lighting that is turning a little blue as stage talk turns towards descriptions of parts of his anatomy that are best left to the imagination. He also jokes that his ‘boots are too big for my feet’. Which they clearly were. This caused him some difficulty and an occasional slight trip on his untied laces, which meant periodically stopping in vain to attempt to tie them back up. The funny business continues when he pulls his yellow afro wig out of his little red suitcase for ‘Curly Locks’. He also invites a young lady on stage (twice) and he states firstly ‘I dub you a princess’ and secondly a ‘dub daughter’.

It’s quite easy at a Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry show to get enveloped in his antics and perhaps momentarily lose track of the superb quality of music coming from his band. ‘The Upsetters’ which he dubbed ‘the best band in London’ certainly lived up to that standard! They had a great vibe and energy about them as they smiled and powered their way through the set including songs like ‘Jungle Safari’, ‘I Am A Godman’, ’Pum Pum’, ‘Come And Go With Lee’ and ‘Jah Live‘ and were then more than deservedly called back to the stage for an encore of ‘Heathen’

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