Thievery Corporation and The Reminders @ College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, 12/14 By Zack Gomez
It was December 14th, 2016. Thievery Corporation was playing at College Street Music Hall. Winter was making its impending presence known. Faced with the prospect of paying for parking, I instead elected to park far away and walk in the cold. I arrived at College Street and got inside just in time to see the tour opener take the stage.
The Reminders, a Colorado-based hip-hop group steeped in roots, soul and electronica, deliver humanist themes of community and family through front-couple Aja Black and Big Samir. They switch fluently between rapping and singing as they trade off bars and verses, Aja effervescently leading the audience in call-and-response segments and Samir performing bilingually in English and French. Backed by Colorado emcee DJ Lazy Eyez,
The Reminders allow their influences to bleed into each other to create feel-good music that avoids being pinned down by a single clear genre label. What is clear, however, is why Thievery Corporation picked them to tour: their stage presence is vibrant and direct, and the two bands project many overlapping themes common to reggae, dancehall and even protest music. The Reminders released their most recent album, Born Champions, in 2012.
Between sets I spoke to Samir and Aja at the merch table and explored College Street Music Hall’s balcony, which had been closed on my last visit.
The balcony is tiered rather steeply, just like much of the main floor, giving everyone a clear, wide view of the stage. I don’t doubt that the roomy field of view was appreciated by many concertgoers that night - I lost count of Thievery Corporation’s performers and crew, who made use of every inch of the stage. The Corporation’s drum kit was placed at stage left, with its usual position at center stage occupied by two DJ risers and microphones for the horn section. At stage right was a veritable laboratory of percussive instruments.
Before too long an army of musicians took the stage and launched directly into “Facing East”. Thievery Corporation is a D.C.-based music collective birthed in the mid-1990s by DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton (a noted dining and nightlife entrepreneur). While their defining release, The Richest Man in Babylon, is a smooth, consistent blend of trip-hop, bossa nova, and lounge, they have (both before and since that release) blazed trails into other genres such as reggae, jazz, psychedelia and electronica.
Thievery Corporation is currently wrapping up their 20th anniversary tour, with a stage show featuring performers drawn from across the globe. Vocalists LouLou Ghelichkhani (France, Iran), Sleepy Wonder (Jamaica), Puma Ptah (St. Thomas); bassist Ashish Vyas (Washington, D.C.), and many more artists lend to the group a huge variety of experience, culture, taste and texture that aids Garza and Hilton on their never-ending aural expedition.
I had a blast photographing Thievery, particularly guitarist Rob Myers (who is himself a photographer), and was impressed by both the size and mellow, friendly vibe of the audience they drew. The next landmark on Thievery Corporation’s journey, The Temple of I & I, is scheduled for release in February 2017. Catch them if you can.
Setlist (all abbreviations and shorthand appears as written by band):
What we're listening to.