This is a big one for me. A bucket list band, and it goes back almost 15 years:
Ozomatli are a latin fusion, Hip-Hop act that have had my attention for years from the high energy Glastonbury sets I kept seeing on TV, brought to you by Jools Holland when there was nothing else of note happening on a Sunday night. I bought an album of theirs, the bands eponymous first album while in a music shop in Maidstone and it set me back about 16 quid. A ridiculous amount for me at the time.
And from the first track I was hooked, every track was incredible, it broadened my horizons in music at the right time, just as I got my first car, it was the first album on rotation, and became an album I’ve carried around for nigh on 17 years without losing, leaving behind or drunkenly smashing.
Along the way, it was another thing my best friend and I bonded over. Both discovering another thing we had in common.
In 2002, I had tickets to see them. A 21st birthday present that meant as much to me as anything I got that year, and then I was devastated as the torrential rain that occurred the days prior and on the day meant the whole thing was cancelled. I got as a consolation, a ticket to the west midland safari park. Suffice to say I was just annoyed by that attempt to placate me by the organisers that I still get angry driving past the place.
Albums came and went, and as with most bands that don’t have mainstream success, touring in Europe was more sporadic, and talk of seeing them one day became the thing of legend. At one point, my friend and I even discussed a pilgrimage to the USA to try and catch them.
MANY YEARS LATER……..
It turns out that we’re both idiots that don’t keep a close enough eye on social media. A couple of weeks back, tired and annoyed by my lack of sleep, I noticed the Bass Player from the band, Wil-Dog Abers doing an Instagram question time, and I threw out the question I’ve been wondering, “When are you playing in the UK”….. 3 hours later and waking up, I found out he’d indeed answered, with “2 weeks time bro!”
I instantly fanboyed, checked the dates, and messaged my best friend, and another hour later we had tickets. I felt like when Charlie Bucket won a golden ticket. Fast forward 2 weeks, a shift at work where I was bouncing back and forth excited and a bit of traffic, I found myself waiting to watch the band I never thought I’d get to see, with my best friend, in a venue that holds little more than 300-400 people.
First up though were the support band, Lazy Habits, who initially I wasn’t even too bothered to see, but over the course of a half hour set won me over. A band who’d obviously taken influences from similar bands to Ozomatli, if not the headline act themselves. The tunes flowed well, and had a Hip-Hop, Jazz and Funk fusion sound that really worked. Particularly as you realise that the lead melody was all horn driven, with not a keyboard or guitar in sight. Accomplished and a lot of fun.
But it was one act I was there for, and at around half 9, they took to the stage. Bursting into tracks I was so familiar with and had listened to in the car for years.
The night was made even better with the addition of Chali2Na. A Rapper with the legendary Hip-Hop act Jurassic 5 and original member of Ozomatli through the first album. Being the 20th anniversary of the first album, a fact totally lost on me initially, ensured the celebratory atmosphere of the night as they played the whole album impeccably along with a few other classics and a couple of newer tracks.
From chanting the rap vocals along with Chali2Na on 'Cut Chemist Suite' and 'Superbowl Sundae', to the horn heavy, latin dancing tracks such 'La Misme Cancion', 'Donde se Fueron' and 'Chango', this literally had everything I could have wanted from the night. Unbridled energy all the way through, impeccable vocals, and some beautifully crafted solos showing off how talented the musicians all are, how far they’ve come in 20 years and how they all were so appreciative of each others talents. It was a feeling of family, friends and having the best time with some great tunes.
The final track of the night, 'Como Ves', which is actually the first track of the debut album was incredible. The support band were brought back onstage, adding to the horn section, vocals and given the rub of their own solos on rap, horns and percussion, showing true class and yet again giving off the atmosphere that this was a group of friends all having a great night just jamming together.
As with all Ozomatli shows, the final track ended in the crowd, all members bringing percussion instruments and horns into the crowd, feeding off the energy and having a bit of fun to fully close proceedings.
I’m Biased, I was starstruck upon meeting the members as we got out of the car, and couldn’t keep the grin off my face as Chali2Na signed my CD booklet exclaiming “I haven’t seen this version in years, it’s damn rare” about the version of the debut album I own, that’s now scratched, broken and barely plays all tracks. It’s a night I dreamt of having, never thought would happen and was every bit the experience I could have asked for.
My best friend was right in that it’s the best night I’ve had this year.
Ozomatli - https://www.facebook.com/ozomatli/
Chali 2na - https://www.facebook.com/chali2na/
Lazy Habits - https://www.facebook.com/lazyhabits/
Review - Oil Williams