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[whitespace] Long Beach Dub Allstars
Profane and Sublime: The Long Beach Dub Allstars, with a lineup that includes turntables, saxophone and plenty of guest vocalists, do Sublime better even than the famed (and ill-fated) trio did itself.

Live Dub

To err is human, but to really botch a club show is Sublime

By David Espinoza

AMONG THE SLEW of Sublime albums filled with "previously unreleased material" and demo tracks that hurriedly appeared after the band's last and most successful album, one lyric in particular stands out when it comes to describing the group live: "Anyone ... who tells you Sublime were always good is lying" (from 1998's Stand By Your Van). This is an understatement.

From the first time I saw them in '93 to the last time in '96, three days before lead singer Bradley Nowell kicked it from a drug overdose, Sublime was always one of the most drunken, out-of-tune, sloppy bands in concert (and let's not even get into the way they treated fans of the opposite sex). Even when they were playing their songs in key and the P.A. equipment was working properly, you could count on bassist Eric Wilson to have the stage presence of a potato or Nowell to forget lyrics. Granted, most of the brilliant studio work that Sublime did had much more than guitars, drums and bass in it--an incredibly important element always missing from their live setup. That's where the Long Beach Dub Allstars come in.

Taking control of the Palookaville stage Oct. 15, the seven-member LBDA busted out old Sublime tunes the way they were meant to be done--with turntables, saxophone and the occasional guest rasta vocalist. It's uncanny how much longtime Sublime compañero Opie Ortiz (the guy missing his front teeth on the Robbin' the Hood album cover) sounds like Nowell until you remember that he's been with the band since the beginning.

Still, while Ortiz can match Nowell on overall tone, he lacks the soulfulness that Nowell was known for. Hesitantly trotting around stage, Ortiz looked more like the sit-in guy than the leader of a reconstituted version of Sublime. Of course, none of this seemed to bother the sold-out crowd, who were there primarily to sing and dance to old Sublime songs. Case in point: When the band broke into "Garden Grove," the opening track on Sublime's major-label debut (and last real album), Ortiz stopped singing altogether, letting the crowd do the work.

Giving Ortiz a much-needed rest was guest vocalist Half Pint, who schooled the audience in bass-heavy, rhythmic, true-roots reggae. Even with Tippa Irie and Barrington Levy not opening the show as scheduled, Half Pint offered enough rastaman dub to keep people groovin'. Also taking the mic was guitarist Ras 1, a hefty fellow whose most revealing comment came during the second half of the show when he said something to the effect of "let's see some naked chicks." Some things never change.

Street Beat

If you happen to be a fan of folk rock with an alternative twist, keep an eye out for street musician Christopher St. James. Crouched outside East Meets West, St. James last week belted out simple Velvet Underground-like tunes on his classical guitar. A regular on Free Radio Santa Cruz, the prolific 28-year-old singer/songwriter says he came to town a few months ago.

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From the October 20-27, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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