Tickets (maximum four tickets per adult) are distributed the day of performance at the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon, or at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets go fast! 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. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m.
Afrobeat rhythms by the dozen
Here's one way to know that your band is large. Ask the leader how many people play in it and he pauses for a moment, as if he's scanning the stage and counting band members in his head.
After a few seconds, Michael Shereikis, guitarist and songwriter for local rhythm kings Chopteeth, finally settles on an answer.
"I guess 12?"
Bigger doesn't always mean better, but Chopteeth has found strength in numbers, concocting an invigorating mix of Afrofunk, rumba, salsa, ska and funk that has made the group a local favorite with wide-ranging appeal.
The band, which headlines tonight's final goingoutguide.com Weekend Summer Concert at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, has played everywhere from the Black Cat to Blues Alley, the Takoma Park Folk Festival to Baltimore's Artscape. The brassy blasts of a five-piece horn section - "That's the star of the show right there," Shereikis says - rarely fail to get audiences moving, even if the band members have little room to maneuver on a tightly packed stage.
The band's sound is mainly steeped in Afrobeat, a buoyant brand of funk made famous by Fela Kuti in Africa in the 1970s. Another major influence was New York group Antibalas. Chopteeth bassist Robert Fox was living in Brooklyn when Antibalas began making a mark with its horn-fueled sound, and when he moved to Washington he decided he would like to do something similar. Fox met Shereikis through their children and discovered that they shared an affinity for African music. Throw in a few mutual friends and players found through Craigslist and by word of mouth, and Chopteeth was born in 2004, although with considerably limited ambitions at first.
"We were saying: 'This is fun music to play. Let's just get together in people's homes and jam on it,' " Shereikis says of the band's beginnings. Soon the band was playing at Silver Spring restaurant Los Arrieros, and the crowd reaction convinced Shereikis that he just might be onto something.
"People were dancing - it felt to me like those dance clubs I would go to in Africa," Shereikis says. "That's when I thought, if we can get people to do that, then this is something real."
Shereikis had two stints in Africa, first serving in the Peace Corps in Central African Republic in 1992 and then living in Ivory Coast later that decade. He didn't go there for the music; he organized children's soccer leagues. (His love of soccer shows up in musical metaphors when he says of the band's rhythm section: "It's like a good defense. If you don't notice them, they're doing their jobs.") But it was during that first stay in Africa that Shereikis became fascinated with that continent's guitar styles, which he honed back in the States and later in Ivory Coast.
Even though his guitar is far from the focal point of the group's sound, Shereikis is the band's musical guide. After all, it's hard to have a productive jam session with a dozen people involved.
"I have a little space at my house and mock things up there and bring them to the band, and they give me the thumbs up/thumbs down," he says. "It really helps to have some accomplished horn players that can say, 'Well, that's nice, but how about if we layer it like this?' It's a collaborative process."
Shereikis is looking forward to performing at this year's goingoutguide.com summer concert not just because it adds another venue to the band's eclectic gigography (one that comfortably holds the 12 members), but because the crowd promises to be equally eclectic. Although genres such as Afrobeat and rumba may not be well known, Chopteeth really belongs to a much simpler genre: dance music. And that's something that just about everyone can agree on.
"That's one thing I do enjoy when we play [non-nightclub shows], watching that inter-generational interaction," Shereikis says. "Sometimes you get older couples that will dance and you see little kids dancing on the side. As a family man myself, I especially love that."