April 25th, 2007



I couldn't get anyone else interested in seeing Ozomatli last night, so I went by myself, and had an ecstatic time. They are SO GOOD live. I could only stay still in my seat occasionally from exhaustion.

This was my first visit to World Cafe Live's downstairs venue. It's a little roomier than a lot of clubs, but still small enough to be intimate. I went right when the doors opened at 6--except they weren't quite open yet, and I got to listen to sound check through the doors, while sitting on the steps with five or six other early arrivals. The layout is like this: a long bar along the wall by the entrance, with space for standing people in front of it, then a row of tables that each seat six. The tables bump against a metal railing to protect from the dropoff to the main floor. A few more tables and the sound equipment bay are up against the wall below the railing, then there's an open space for standing and dancing, then the stage.

Inside, I immediately snagged a seat right against the railing and just to the right of the sound bay. Perfect! I wasn't expecting much from the food, but in fact had a very nicely prepared burger and fries. After I ate, I read more of The Sweetheart Season (Karen Joy Fowler) and watched the place fill up, and fill up, and fill up. I knew it would be fun to be down on the floor but, being short, I wouldn't get nearly the view I had from up top.

Opening band were Philly locals Slo-Mo. Their songs are repetitive and tend to build a groove, so they got a good response. The only think I didn't like was that when there were vocal harmonies, the pitch was often off on the harmony parts. I suspect they didn't have monitors, or something, or surely they would have noticed.

Ozomatli was fabulous. They mix rhythms and styles so often that it's impossible to be bored, and all the members dance, when they're playing, when they're not playing. It's a kaleidoscope of sight and sound. At the end of the concert, the saxophonist and the bassist took up small drums (looked like small toms, just the heads), the percussionists strapped on a big tom and a snare, and the trumpet and trombone followed them down into the crowd, making a small circle in the center of all the people. I'm not sure what happened to the drummer and the guitarist--they went down, too, but I'm not sure if they had small toms or what. Anyway, they played in the center for a while, no amplification needed, drums to keep you dancing, a whistle to keep you alert, and occasional trumpet and trombone to change things up and initiate call and response (Ole Ole!). Finally, they formed a parade of sorts, snaked through the downstairs area, then up past the bar, and out into the stairwell, where they finished out with another ten minutes or so of crashing, echoing drums and brass, surrounded by the crowd (including me) on the floor, on the staircase, looking down from the floor above.

I walked home afterwards, rather than hang around for autographs. I didn't have anything profound to say, anyway, just, "Thank you for the show." Once past the loiterers and smokers outside the building, it was quiet, quiet for a city, I mean. I crossed the Walnut Street Bridge and appreciated the wind. The river gleamed, and a neon sign across the water reflected purple and shining. Red streaks on the water shifted to green with the traffic lights. I don't live far. I was tired, but the walk was just right.

Inside my head, there is still singing.