Friday, July 5, 2013

Pride and Prejudice... (Pt. 2)

Back in New York there was no time to rest. I jumped right back into the fray with American Candy rehearsal, blaKbüshe rehearsal and teaching yoga. I managed to take a small break for myself on Friday, but Saturday the 29th Burnt Sugar was right back at it. We played the Harlem Arts Festival at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. It was a good time, but the person who went on before us went way over her time so our set was cut short. Yet and still, Burnt Sugar still knows how to get it done and make an impact short set or long.

The day before, I was working with my friend Shelly to get my outfit together for the Pussypalooza show. I had an idea that Chuz had actually give me so I was running with it. I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but I just didn’t get the shopping gene. I really don’t like shopping. It sometimes puts me in a panic. Yes it’s like that. It feels so overwhelming. I really hate scouring though stores, etc. I just want to see it and buy it. No fuss. No muss. Thank Goddess Shelly was there to help me this time around. So she met me at the show in Harlem and after we did a short fitting of all the things I bought. She used to live in that neighborhood so she had a friend who let us use his place to try on my outfit. Everything was coming together. I just had to get a pair of shoes and fishnets and we were good to go.

Sunday was Pussypalooza at the Mercury Lounge in lower Manhattan. It was also New York City Pride Sunday. That's what the show was all about.  I have to admit that I had a feeling for a while that something might go wrong that day. I knew that the show would be great, but my spirit told me to be aware or keep an eye out. Well low and behold it happened right as I walked in the door. I checked in with the door person and I saw that my band was scheduled to play at 9pm instead of 10pm. The last email that I got from the person who coordinated the event said that I was to go on at 10pm and since I didn’t get any other emails saying anything to the contrary that’s what I advertised for the last few weeks.

The first thing that the organizer said to me is that I was stressing her out because the band wasn’t there. I was confused because it was 8:30pm and as I KNEW we were going on at 10pm. Well I won’t get into the whole conversation, but she did have to apologize to me a bit later for her tone, etc. I had told the band to be there at 9pm so I text everyone and told them that they moved our time up and to get to the venue ASAP. In the meantime my friend Daryl was there to help out and Shelly and I went downstairs to get ready for the show.

Before I could even start getting ready the soundman came downstairs to talk to me about what was going on with the time as if it was my fault. I stated my piece, told him to go talk to the organizer and I continued to get dressed. Little by little the band arrived and soon we were all in the house. Shelly was almost done with my beat when the sound people started to harass me about getting started. Yes I said harass because he came down twice and the second time I had to get loud with a dude. Don’t come bothering the artist! Yes I went there! These fools don’t know! I later found out that some chick, which turned out to be the drummer for the last band, was also harassing my band as they were setting up and waiting for me to take the stage. God is good because if I had been up there, my Scorpio stinger would have come out and cussed her out! That chick is lucky that I have men in my band who were raised properly and won’t just haze a chick for talking out the side of her neck. I know I sound a little out of pocket right now, but that shit pissed me off! Don’t be talking to my band like you own them or can run them! Don’t be talking to them like they are boys! Oh hell no! That’s a no, no! *breathe*

World Famous B*O*B

Now I was ready to take the stage and I was pissed. World Famous B*O*B introduced me (she was really sweet) and then I hit the stage in my Technicolor dreamcoat, leotard with the sheer strip up the middle, fishnets, rainbow wig, pink lashes, black rhinestone heels and kicked in the door waving the 4-4. It was a wild week the week before Pride. The Supreme Court killed DOMA, which was amazing, but they also struck down the Voting Rights Act. Not so amazing. Also Sen. Wendy Davis in Texas stood for 13 hours for the reproductive rights of women in her state and the country, so there was a lot to talk about. After all that went down, before I started singing I had a few things to say as I stepped to the mic. I felt the need to remind those folks that although there is a lot to celebrate there is also a lot of work to be done and you will respect my blackness! 1, 2, 3, 4! And in we went into “I Am American.” Yes it was like that.

The gear

V. Jeff Smith aka the Darkman
Technicolor Dreamcoat

David Pilgrim

Jeff "the Haitian Sensation" Jeudy


the büshe

There is nothing like doing a set when you are angry. That show was off the hook! We played the hell out of that joint. I have to admit that I love the look on people’s faces who have never seen us before. I love the look of shock and awe. I love the smiling faces and asses moving. I love the vibe and the energy of the people. I really love it happy, angry or sad. There is nothing like it.

I was so glad to see some faces in the audience that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Although the evening felt so much like a Mercury in Retrograde moment (funny that the show as at the Mercury Lounge too) I have to give the planet Mercury some love because the old people who are coming back this cycle have been amazing and I’m so thankful for that.

At the end of a show that consisted of “I Am American,” “Punanny Politixxx,” “Box,” “In Your View,” and “Power on the Floor” the people were sufficiently turned out. All in a nights work. I know I don’t sound very humble right now, but that’s just how I felt that night and sometimes an honest level of confidence/arrogance never hurts.

So here we are in July and the party continues. I’m excited about the upcoming album fundraiser show on July 10th that will also feature Ganessa James, Chaney Sims and Ashley Phillips. It’s going to be an amazing night. I can’t wait. I’ll be sure to report back on that a little fast that you got this report. I hope you enjoyed the photos and there will be some video coming from the Pussypalooza show as well. Stay tuned!

Thank you all for your continued love and support. I really love and appreciate you all! I really do.

NYC to O-HI-O... (Pt 1)

It’s been quite a couple of weeks, and it don’t stop. There are still lots of great events ahead, but I wanted to take a moment to rewind the tape.

Let’s go back to June 20th and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. On that night a modified version of blaKbüshe played for the African Voices Literary Awards. Jeff and Jerome both had other gigs that night so Sharief Hobley sat in on guitar with Matsu, Ganessa, V. Jeff and I. Before we hit the stage Bonafied Rojas, Willie Perdomo, Asha Bandele and a host of others paid tribute to writer, poet, activist, and professor Tony Medina. It was such an amazing night and event. I got to reconnect with some of my spoken word poetry folks that I missed more than I even knew. But the highlight of my evening happened before I even hit the stage. Willie Perdomo was called up to speak about Tony he mentioned The Tea Party in his speech. For those of you who really know me, you know that The Tea Party for me is not an ultra right wing, hate mongering, group that has tried to take over the American political system, but instead a peace loving, ultra artistic organization that I helped run in the 90s and early 2000s. It was so wonderful to hear our name mentioned as part of the history of the black arts movement that happened during that time. We are not forgotten. We are here. Give thanks!

Me & Sharief Hobley

When we finally hit the stage at the end of the night we brought the fire as usual. The set was short, but really sweet. We performed “I Am American,” “In Your View” and “Power on the Floor.” By the end of the set we had people on their feet. I got to see some old friends and made some new.  It was a really wonderful time and a reminder that I am part of an amazing group of people.

Me & Lorranie Currrelley

Me, Tony Medina, Caroyln Butts (Founder of African Voices), Maitefa Angaza, Ekere Tallie

After the show I headed back home to pack for my trip to Cleveland with Burnt Sugar. We were pulling out of NY early the next morning. Luckily the Schomburg show ended early so that I could get some rest before out long car ride.

Friday morning Ben, V. Jeff, Trevor and I hit the road for Cleveland. The rest of the Sugar crew was in the van ahead of us. Although the trip was long, we had such a great time laughing and talking along the way. I really love traveling with these guys. It's amazing some things you find on the road. Here are just a few examples of the delicacies and fine art that you can find in the good ole U.S. of A.

Just in case you can't see it these are Ruffles MAXX Limited Edition Flame Grilled Steak Flavored chips. 

Fine Art at the rest stop.  The great thing is I met a sweet woman who really loved this. There is something for everyone!

In case you can't see it, they say Intercourse, PA. Yes this is a real Amish town in PA that apparently has great shopping!

When we got to Cleveland, Flip’s (our trumpet player) family was kind enough to set up a whole feast for us. It was really a beautiful spread. True Ohio hospitality, but really just indicative of how black folks get down when they have people coming over and there is food involved. I know this scene well. My parents have an epic BBQ every year for the 4th of July; this was really not much different. Good food, good folks, good drink, good talk and all around good times. It was a long day and when we finally headed back to the hotel we were beat. On to tomorrow!

What I found in my hotel room. I added my crystals to make it a Game of Thrones!
The following day Paula, V. Jeff and I went in search of breakfast and come across a cool organic café in the Little Italy section of town. Just to be clear we were staying on the Case Western University campus, which was in a very cute area. After eating with Jeff and Paula I had to head back to the hotel to meet up with my friend Katrice and her family. I was so excited to see them because I had not met their baby girl who is now 2-years old. Time flies! I hadn’t seen Katrice is many years so the reunion was really great. After a short visit we had to go our separate ways because I had to head to sound check at the art museum.

Tomato "tree" found in Little Italy
I went back to the hotel, got my shaking things and headed to the venue. Although they had the band take a shuttle van to get to the museum, the venue was actually right down the street from the hotel. We could have walked there, which I wound up doing a couple of times after that.

I found out before we got to Cleveland that this event is really the party of the year. When I emailed my sands (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a Delta) to tell them I was coming to town, I was also apologetic that I didn’t have comps for them. Well as it turned out, I didn’t need them because they had already bought tickets before they even knew I was on the bill! That’s the kind of affair it was. The gig was sold out, which meant that they had sold about 5,000 tix! Burnt Sugar was sharing a bill that night with two bands from New York. One was Red Baraat and the other was the Crystal Ark. Turns out the Crystal Ark also had three singers in the band who we all knew including my friend Sokhna. Some of us also knew a few of the members of Red Baraat. Not to mention and Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Rekha were also spinning that night! So there was a huge musical New York contingent in the house that night. It was definitely one of those feelings like we were in the right place at the right time. 


V. Jeff & Ben

V. Jeff & Mikel

Cleveland Art Museum

V. Jeff, Jared, Luqman, Greg

After sound check I headed back to the hotel for a nap! I was so tired and I had work to do for blaKbüshe. As I said, it don’t stop! I was trying to hook up with another Ohio friend, but I was just too beat. It’s great to see folks, but I always have to remember what I’m there for. I’m there to work, so I have to be at my best and that day it meant getting some sleep.

I got up in time to get dressed and head back to the venue to have a bite to eat before the show. I was over there chilling when I remembered that I left my lyric book in the hotel. Luckily the shuttle was there so I just hopped back on and headed to the hotel. All I had to do was run up and back, but the organizer of the event asked the shuttle driver to wait for the band members of the Crystal Ark. I didn’t think that would be a big deal, but soon I realized that I needed to get back in a hurry. So I ended up making my first walk back to the venue. As I mentioned, it wasn’t far and it was nice to see a bit more of the Case Western campus. When I got back to the museum, I finally caught up with my sands Shay. We talked for a while, I gave her an arm band so she could come backstage later, and then it was time to get ready to go on.

The set was a lot of fun. It’s always a little strange for me when the stage is so far away from the people. Sometimes it’s challenging to feel the energy, but the folks really liked it. They were dancing and singing so I think we pulled it off. LOL We did a little Chuck Brown, James Brown, David Bowie and Burnt Sugar originals. Fun all around for sure.

Taking in the Light

Me & Flip!

The People
After the set I hung with Shay and we went inside the museum to where Afrika Bambaataa was spinning in the atrium of the museum. Folks were dancing and having a great time. You know it’s good when people are dancing on benches and this one dude came up to me, started dancing, took my hand and rubbed his bald head with it! Party on! I also ran into my sands Layna’s sister and soror Consuela. It was so good to see her. It had been a long time.

Afrika Bambaataa on the wheels! I think he was actully spinning vinyl!

Me and my Sands Shay! #1 & #2!

Shay and I hung out with some of the rest of the band until they basically kicked us off the grounds. We said goodnight and went our separate ways. There has been talk of hitting another spot, but I was so tired. Also there was talk of some folks going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the morning so I knew if I had to get up for that then I had to go to bed.

Back at the hotel I hung out in the lobby for a bit with Greg and then headed up to bed. The post show high is so real that sometimes it’s so hard to go to bed. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I can understand how people start using drugs in the entertainment industry. That show high is so palpable and if you don’t have a hold of yourself, it’s so easy to want to stay there. I get it. I really get it.

The next day I rose early to take advantage of the complementary breakfast that the festival set up for the artists at the hotel. Then I got ready to go to the Hall of Fame! I was so excited! Jared, V. Jeff, Paula and I were the only ones who made the journey. Andre, Greg and Mikel had gone the day before.

When we arrived at the Hall of Fame it looked like the Lourve in Paris. The façade was a glass pyramid just like Lourve and the Hall of fame sits right on Lake Erie, which is beautiful. When we got out of the cab the first thing we saw was Johnny Cash’s tour bus! What??!!! We tried to get on, but we had to get our tickets first. That’s how hyped we were.

Johnny Cash Tour Bus!
Jared has secured tix for us the night before with the Hall of Fame folks who came to the museum and then we went in. We started downstairs with the Hall of Legends. Mikel told me the day before that when you walk in the first thing you see if black people and now I understood what he meant. Before you walk into the hall, the archway has huge photos of James Brown, Chuck Berry and I think Little Richard. Buddy Holly is up there too, but really it was the black folks that caught my eye first. When you go downstairs there are also guitars from various people encased in glass and first touring van of Rage Against the Machine. That van was tiny to say the least. Humble beginning for sure.

When you walk into the Hall of Legends it’s really a history of Rock and Roll. It’s a timeline. So as Mikel said, it starts with black people. Now fundamentally I know, like most of you know, that Rock and Roll starts with black people, but to see it up there, plain as day and realizing that the people that go there can’t get to their beloved Elvis or the Beatles without walking by us, was really deep. I didn’t expect to be effected like I was. I really almost cried a few times up in there. There is so much energy in that space. Those items hold power. I kind of felt like I was in Warehouse 13 (check the TV show if you don’t know). LOL! There are things in there like Howlin’ Wolf’s money box that he carried with him on stage because he didn’t trust anyone with his money. Little Richard’s pink jumpsuit, James Brown’s SEX jumpsuit, Janis Joplin’s colorfully painted Porsche, a pair of George Clinton’s boots, twin ZZ Top guitars, a Sly Stone fringe beaded vest, John Lennon’s mellotron and Sgt. Peppers suit, Jimi’s hand painted (by him) flying V, Ray Manzarek’s organ that he wrote the into to “Light My Fire” on and the list goes on and on and on. Of the many things that touched me, the one that stands out the most is the CBGB awning. The actual awning that used to sit on Bowery at Bleeker street is now in the hall of fame. I played under that awning many times with my band and with others. I had seen so many shows there. Seeing that banner really solidified for me that I am a part of Rock and Roll history. No my name is not on the wall, yet, but me and the rest of the people who I have rode this musical wave with in NYC are part of this legacy. I am one of them. I am part of a continuum. I am still learning and growing, but that day it became just a little bit clearer who I am. I am so humbled and thankful for those who paved the way. I feel you. I am you. I know you are with me. Ashe.

Infamous 70s Elvis jumpsuit
Diana Ross dress & Jackie Jackson jumpsuit

Janis Joplin acid blotter (top right) and funeral program (left)
Little Richard pink jumpsuit

Bobby Blue Bland's shoes and sunglasses and Chris Jasper's (Isley Brothers) Moog Liberator keytar

The side of Otis Redding's plane that he died in.  Deep...
Iconic Stevie Nicks witchy apparel

The essence of Run DMC. DMC's sneakers & glasses, Jam Master Jay gold chain and Run's hat!

Janis Joplin's Porche!

Sly Stone fringe vest
John Lennon's Sgt. Peppers suite

...and John's mellotron

Jimi's hand painted (by him) flying V!

Ray Manzarek's organ/harpsichord

Our time at the museum went by quickly. I didn’t get to see everything as the whole thing is six floors, but I saw enough. We make quick stop on the Johnny Cash tour bus and then got back in the cab to head back to the hotel and hit the road.

Back of the bus

Long hall

The van crew got in the van and V. Jeff, Trevor, Ben and I piled in the car and we were off. Cleveland was amazing. There is something about the Midwest that will always feel a little bit like home. Just a little bit.