"With music like this, who needs LSD?" quipped a fan at the Variety Arts Center on Sunday night. The on-stage headliner was Mark Stewart & Maffia, but the real star of the night was the unassuming-looking man behind the mixing board, rocking the sound system. In his first L.A. appearance, Adrian Sherwood, one of the most famous dub/mix producers in Britain, lived up to his reputation as a man who not only alters sounds, but the way we listen to them.
The only question Sunday was whether one's ears could survive the massive volume. There's loud and then there's Adrian Sherwood.
Stewart, the former leader of Britain's revolutionary punk-funk outfit the Pop Group, was nearly eclipsed by his cohorts on stage: the Tackheads, three musicians who defined the early state of rap music as the house band for Sugarhill Records.
The brilliantly dexterous Doug Wimbish recalled that past by playing the unmistakable bass lines to Sugarhill hits "Rapper's Delight" and "White Lines." With dead-on drumming (both electronic and live) provided by Keith LeBlanc--responsible for one of rap's greatest singles, "Malcolm X (No Sell Out)"--this monster rhythm section sounded like a brontosaurus stomping through deepest, darkest Manhattan while Stewart, the last of the disaffected angry young Brits, chortled and screamed his brittle, acerbic, politically-tinged cants behind Sherwood's curtain of effects.
As funky as a bombed-out building in the Bronx, rocking harder than a granite quarry, Sherwood and his nuclear ensemble of Anglo-American collaborators dropped a sonic aural bomb: tune in, turn on, fallout.