Groundation @ Vinyl with Special Guest Apple Gabriel – 6/29/08

Last Saturday I parked at my friend’s Jesus’ apartment in Midtown Atlanta like I do on many a weekend evening. Unlike most weekend evenings, we had big plans… we hung out while the rest of our friends arrived and worked on pre-gaming up until about 9:00 pm, at which point we headed out on foot.

After a short walk we arrived at the CW Midtown complex / Center Stage / whatever the hell it is called now, and immediately went in the wrong door. FYI, the door to the left is Vinylnot the glass door. I figured out we had made a mistake as soon as I heard crooning and saw flyers for Anthony Jaymes or someone with a similar name.

So we walked around to the other door, paid, and sat down at the bar… more after the jump.

For those of you who have not been in Vinyl, it is a small, intimate single-room club (although bigger than something like the Ten High in the Virginia Highlands). The decor is fairly modern and unobtrusive, but with a warm feel – low lighting and a color scheme emphasizing reds and browns – plus it seemed like whoever was running the lighting also favored the red cans over the stage.

The Reggae Coalition Band was already playing when we walked in. As I turned back to the stage I noticed that it was the bassist who was singing the lyrics for “Natural Mystic.” From what I saw, they put on a pretty good performance (with quite an emphasis on Marley covers). Unfortunately the club was less than full at that point, so the Coalition didn’t get as much audience love as they should have, but all in all a good performance.

After the Coalition finished their set, my friends sat down to discuss the best values in terms of quality and price, and adjust our consumption strategies accordingly. (The veredict, you ask? Cheapest “nice” beer – draft Sweetwater 420 for $4, cheapest “crappy” beer – $3 PBR tallboy.) I also made conversation with some of the folks in the crowd… I spoke with a guy Jacksonville who flew in for the show (who definitely started early since he was totally plastered) and I also heard about some folks who drove in from Asheville, NC.

Then suddenly, after what has to be one of the shortest breakdown-setup breaks I’ve ever experienced at a live show… Groundation. Most of the audience rose to its feet immediately to rush the front of the stage as the nine members energetically kicked off the set.

They followed with “Praising” (my personal favorite). Now, the album version of the song features Apple Gabriel and Don Carlos performing the background vocals with the signature Israel Vibration vocal trills / phrasing / whatever you call them. Now, since I’ve seen the man turn up as an unannounced guest at two different concerts previously, I thought it was possible that he might be there until I heard the backup singers performing the part instead. No matter – Groundation puts on a hell of a show, regardless of who they share their stage with.

Although there was plenty of energy in the air already, “Weeping Pirates” really got the crowd going, and the few people who had not already approached the stage started trickling down to the front. My friend M was particularly happy to hear this one.

Suddenly, Harrison (Stafford, vocalist and guitarist) announced a very special guest – I only had to see a cane-wielding right hand peeking out from the side curtain to know. Apple stepped just as applause erupted after Harrison announced his name. After saying a few words, he lifted his hand and said “Rudeboy shufflin’!” and with a two-count, the band launched into the Israel Vibrations classic to the tune of screams and cheers.

All in all it was a fantastic night. Apple did a few numbers with the band, leaving them to close out the set. They all sounded unbelievably tight – even better live than recorded. And we all got muuuch more than we expected: great Groundation tunes, a badass percussion solo jam, Apple Gabriel, and a nice Israel cover.

Any true reggae lover would’ve been satisfied… almost. I still had to scream clap and cheer to do my part to precipitate the inevitable encore – “Get Up, Stand Up” – and Bob would’ve been proud.

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One Response to “Groundation @ Vinyl with Special Guest Apple Gabriel – 6/29/08”

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