I hopped on the train this past Wednesday in more of a hurry than usual, excited as one of my favorite bands Steel Pulse was finally in town. This was the second night that Steel Pulse was playing in Brooklyn and I couldn’t wait. When I arrived at Brooklyn Bowl the Organically Good Trio was just finishing their set. Founded by Slightly Stoopid keyboard player Paul Wolstencroft, the band had a nice dub vibe. The mix of guitar, drums and Hammond organ was great for the high reverb jam session they provided. The three songs I heard made me want more and wish I had arrived early enough to hear the entire set.
As the Organically Good Trio finished, the DJ started spinning classic reggae tracks and audience began to sway. More and more people filed into Brookyn Bowl and I was happy to see it packed for this Wednesday night, second show by Steel Pulse. Finally it was time. A full six member band walked on stage followed by founding members: David Hinds and Selwyn Brown. Two chords into their first song ‘Blues Dance Raid’ sent crowd into cheers and a full blown reggae party was underway.
Center stage in an all red outfit, David Hinds with his unmistakable dreads took the audience directly into ‘Macka Splaff’. The crowd sang word for word, “Mr. Collie, Collie, Collie Man, want some herbs to smoke tonight.” Brooklyn Bowl has a strict no smoking policy that is well enforced, but with so many people in attendance there was little they could do as the audience members lit up. The band worked their way though an incredible rendition of ‘A Who Responsible’ with an amazing solo on bass by Amlak "amBASSasdor" Tafari. As if not to be outdone Jerry "Saxman" Johnson came center stage and showed the crowd why the horn section always has the last say with a saxophone solo during ‘Drug Squad’ and ‘Worth His weight in Gold’. Most fans know the later opening lyrics “Rally round the red, gold, black and green.” These fans sure did, singing every word right back at the band.
As they finished their set the band walked off stage, but with so much energy in the room you knew they could not end it on that note. After calls from the crowd for a few minutes, they returned to the stage. David switched to an acoustic guitar and the band entered into a long medley of songs that included the classics ‘Chant A Psalm’, ‘Babylon Makes The Rules’ and ‘Roller Skates’. The classic line, “Life without music, I can go,” never hit so hard as it did right there with hundreds of people all sharing the same thought.
Steel Pulse ended the medley and hung their heads in silence as the names of victims of police violence were read. Then they launched into their most recent political song ‘Hands Up I Can't Breathe’. This hit home for the local New York audience who has been affected like so many other communities by excessive police violence. At the end of the show, Steel Pulse led the audience into an extended version of ‘Stepping Out’. There was not a quiet voice in the building, even the people bowling were signing “Open sesame, here comes Rastaman.” As always Steel Pulse put on an unforgettable show. Hopefully it will not be too long before we see them back in NYC. Their new documentary Dreadtown: The Steel Pulse Story will be out in 2016 and fingers are crossed that they play a show here to promote it.