By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Named for a white abolitionist who died during the late 19th century, John Brown's Body is a predominantly white septet singing about liberation. Of course, an empathetic paradigm does not make a band worth mentioning -- and it's rare that a reggae band is worth mentioning at all -- but John Brown's Body is a rarity. This is not repetitive, flouncy, stinkweed reggae but '70s-style roots, dancehall, and ska in the vein of the Gladiators and the Meditations, and live dubs à la King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry. Lyrically, JBB's overly simplistic and pedagogical, but it's easy to ignore rainbow chariots when you're sweating bullets. John Brown's Body opens for the Abyssinians at the Justice League on Friday, Aug. 6, at 9 p.m. Tickets are is $15-18; call 440-0409.
One thing Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown has made clear: He welcomes artists on his side of the bay. The most recent enticement? A former World War II freighter that has been converted into a floating center for visual and performing arts. The new Artship includes theaters, galleries, salons, classrooms, a maritime museum, a greenhouse, and a cafe rocked by the gentle lapping of the San Francisco Bay, and belonging "to all Oaklanders." The opening of this alternative venue will be celebrated by 25 live performances, including taiko drumming, tap dancing, puppet shows, and magic at Estuary Park (below Jack London Square in Oakland) on Saturday, Aug. 7, at noon. Admission is free; see www.artship.org.
Sprung from the same genre-twisting popcorn machine that spawned Cornelius and Momus, Arling and Cameron are the Dutch duo who created Amsterdam's "Easy Tune," huge, interglobal dance parties that blended pop haute couture and hyperspliced loungy grooves. Aesthetically, the pair were instantly recognized as one of the Shibuya-kei: A Japanese airline adopted songs for flights bound for Europe, both Pizzicato 5 and Fantastic Plastic Machine recorded A&C ditties, and their first album was intended for Japanese release only. But the world is a very small place and All-In is the new in-flight sampler -- French, Brazilian, and Japanese pop, house, dub, hip hop, drum 'n' bass, and rock 'n' roll, all strung together by breezy hilarity, vacuum-sealed freshness, and shiny, happy voices singsonging, "We love dancing! Yeah!" Arling and Cameron perform at the Justice League on Sunday, Aug. 8, with "Bardot A Go Go" DJs spinning at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 440-0409.
In a pitiable display of politically correct acumen, a number of critics have questioned Moby's sampling of African-American spirituals on his recently released Play. The contention is that ancestral appeals to God should not be run through a computer and turned into dance music because a) dance music is somehow innately profane or b) Moby is a privileged, skinny white boy and his appropriation is naturally disingenuous. The first argument might be maintained by someone who has never had the pleasure of living near a Southern Baptist church, someone who has no grasp of the natural relationship between dance, faith, and community. But the second argument can only be postulated by someone completely unfamiliar with Moby's spiritual and political leanings. A didactic environmentalist Christian who does not drink alcohol or consume drugs, Moby has drawn musical inspiration from his beliefs since he was a youngster DJing at youth centers in suburban Connecticut. It's not surprising that Moby has turned to samples from vocalists also so inspired. What is surprising is the ease with which he dissolves folk songs from the early part of the century into the current cut-and-paste culture of the dance floor. The hiss and crackle of '40s gospel singer Vera Hall wailing, "Ooh, Lawdy, troubles so hard/ Don't nobody know my troubles but God," sidles past honky-tonk piano, sparse hip-hop beats, and spacious synth soundscapes. On "Run On," a 300-pound African-American singer from World War II sounds just a little like our pale, wide-eyed boy as he chastises Christian philanderers with barbershop harmonies and a snaky backbeat. But the crowning glory is "Honey" with Bessie Jones repeatedly howling, "You'd better hop in the back/ I'm coming over," with the fervor of someone speaking in tongues. This is blues for an electric Jesus, a sublime mixture of the sainted and the secular, and Moby's best work to date. Moby performs at the Maritime Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 10, with Boom Boom Satellites opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20-22; call 974-6644.
A solar eclipse can feel like the end of the world: During that moment of complete darkness birds stop singing, insects stop buzzing, and dementia seems right around the corner, even more so as we approach 2000. The Final Solar Eclipse of the Millennium will reach totality at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11. Watching it on a live feed won't be quite as harrowing but, with support from NASA and UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratories, folks in the Bay Area will be able to view the eclipse from several field stations along its path -- including Land's End, England; Paris, France; Munich, Germany; and finally Amasya, Turkey. Here at home, food and music from the respective countries will add to the ambience of fire-swallowers, belly dancers, and roaming astronomers. Folks are encouraged to bring sleeping bags and bagged lunches or be prepared to consume a lot of caffeine. The Exploratorium will open for viewing on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 9 p.m. with the first musical performance beginning at 10 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults; call 563-7337.
-- Silke Tudor