They don't play reggae or ska or soul or rap. And they don't want to be called urban contemporary or any other label the industry likes to pin on black music. Nope, the bands that gathered Monday night for a megadecibel celebration at the Coconut Teaszer in West Hollywood--like their predecessors Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix--are rockers.
They came together to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the L.A. chapter of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization of African-American musicians, engineers, industry personnel and other artists and journalists endeavoring to "produce, promote and distribute black music without allowing black artists to be pigeonholed," said Beverly Milner, executive director of the chapter and speed-metal sax and bass player.
The original chapter was founded eight years ago in New York by Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, artist manager Konda Mason and Village Voice writer Greg Tate. They'd observed that many progressive black musicians were being ignored by the music industry and the public at large. The two chapters now boast around 500 members and 50 member bands.
This affair, which also drew some talent scouts from a few major and independent labels as well as dozens of rock fans, served as the record release party for the debut of "Blacker Than That" on the BRC's newly formed label, BRC Records. The album features 12 songs from 12 bands culled from both coasts and includes material from funk veterans Maceo Parker, Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins.
Performing live at the Teaszer were the rock/rap fusion band Bozaque and the all-female grunge-noir band PMS, who both have cuts on the new BRC record. Also taking the stage were local ax-grinders and BRC members Afro-D-Ziak, Admiral Ball-Z, Civil Rite, Total Eclipse and comedian Dr. Lou. The evening's guest emcee was Kevin O'Neal, from the pioneering early-'80s black new wave band, the Bus Boys.
"We're black, we're women and we rock. The industry is afraid of that," says PMS lead singer Reesie Wilkins, who believes African- American musicians should reclaim the genre they created. "We want to rock as much as anybody else and thanks to the BRC, we've been able to play nationwide. Also, we can communicate with other BRC bands, and they give us insight into how to stay in the industry and be strong."