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Going Out Guide Weekend Concerts: Reggae Night

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Editorial Review

There are two ways to get your free tickets:
Pick them up at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the show, or swing by the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon. Tickets go fast and are limited to four per adult.
There are no scheduled rain dates. Picnic areas are available in the park around the amphitheater. For more information, call The Post at 202-334- 6808 or the Carter Barron concert line, which will have updated information on weather-related cancellations, at 202-426-0486.

Archives digs into its reggae roots

By Mark Jenkins
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, June 24, 2011

Tuesday night, traditionally, is not a good gig. But Tuesdays at U Street’s Patty Boom Boom draw wall-to-wall crowds dancing to local reggae band Archives. Archives, which is headlining tonight’s free Going Out Guide Weekend concert at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, plays a 50-50 mix of covers and originals that keeps people moving till well after midnight.

“It think it’s my longest gig,” keyboardist and group leader Darryl “D-Trane” Burke said after one recent Tuesday show that ran nearly four hours. “Every week for a year and a half.”

Archives began not as band, but as a “project” instigated by Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton (who is also one of Patty Boom Boom’s owners). “It kind of wasn’t planned to be a group,” admits Burke, a Washington native. “But it came together nice. So we said, ‘Yeah, let’s go with it.’ ”

Like Thievery Corporation, Archives was conceived as an instrumental unit with rotating vocalists. The band’s debut album, due this fall on Thievery’s ESL label, features multiple singers, including Sleepy Wonder, who has also recorded with, yup, Thievery Corporation.

When performing live, Archives is fronted by Lenny Kurlou, from Jamaica, and Chris Puma, who’s from the Virgin Islands. They also helped write songs for the album, which will feature mostly original material. Leslie “Blackseed” James Jr., also from the Virgin Islands, plays the drums.

“We play some songs that other bands don’t try to play,” Kurlou says, explaining the band’s name. “Original reggae from way back when. We don’t play mainstream reggae all the time. We go in the archives.”

“We try to dig deep in the crates,” Burke interjects.

The musicians also pursue other projects, not all of which involve reggae. Guitarist Mateo Monk, a Colorado native, performs a solo act that uses sampling so can he layer flute and melodica (both of which he also plays with Archives) over his guitar.

“I’ve been listening to reggae all my life,” Monk says, “but I really got serious playing it when I was 23. I was living in Mexico at the time, and the only cassettes I had with me were reggae. I became oversaturated with reggae, and it bled into what I do.”

For Puma, reggae is a permanent vocation, whether he’s performing with Archives or another band. “If we can lend a hand with another band, we’ll do that,” he says. “We’re just trying to make reggae reach to everybody who needs it.”

The band’s eclecticism frees it to incorporate a few lines from the Beatles’ “A Little Help From My Friends,” which Puma borrowed for a song he released last year and performs regularly with Archives. The group has also recorded “One More Time,” a reggae-influenced song by the Clash, for its album.

Although Patty Boom Boom lacks a stage and much in the way of lighting, the club has significant advantages for a band such as Archives. Its sound system showcases Justin Parrott’s bass and is ideal for the booming style. (“If you want to hear reggae, this is the place to come,” Burke proclaims.) And the closeness of the crowd promotes a sort of synergy.

“I’m not a purist for live music,” says Monk, who also likes electronic dance styles. “But a live band can respond in real time to the energy of the audience. It becomes a two-way street. You feed off the audience, and the audience feeds off you. That’s precious.”

The band isn’t worried that Archives will lose that vibe in an outdoor performance. The Carter Barron show will be, Burke promises, “this times 10.” One advantage of a bigger venue is that there’s room for the two horn players who sometimes play with the group and who will be heard on the debut album.

After that disc is released, Archives may open some shows for Thievery Corporation and will most likely tour. Contemplating the possibility of giving up the Tuesday night gig at Patty Boom Boom, Burke pauses. “If we do,” he says, “it’s big shoes to fill.”