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But, alas, given the quality of the ingredients, the high points were in short supply. TVOTR's members often seemed intent on out-artsying their strengths. But one example: Sitek affixed a set of chimes to the headstock of his guitar for "Dreams," and gave up the furious strumming to brush his accessory against the drum kit, a routine that sapped energy with no obvious sonic payoff. And the fans didn't do the band any favors, oozing disinterest whenever the music wasn't moving along at full speed and full volume. During the spaciest portions of "Blind," a psychedelic tune that might best be heard on headphones, more folks in the balcony were facing each other rather than taking in the show.
-- Dave McKenna
Los Angeles-based Ozomatli is all about breaking down barriers. The group's music sneers at the word "genre," whipping hip-hop, Norteno, rock and funk into a populist polyrhythmic spree. Language barriers? Each of the nine band members gets a turn at the mike, and they sing in Spanish and English. Racial barriers? Please. Ozomatli's lineup is a veritable rainbow coalition. But the barrier they smashed most thrillingly at the end of their aerobic two-hour set at the State Theatre in Falls Church Thursday night was the one between performer and audience.
Kicking off with "City of Angels," from Ozo's new "Don't Mess with the Dragon" LP, the show peaked early, then kept right on peaking: A verse of Grandmaster Melle Mel's "Beat Street" segued into the title track from 2004's Grammy-winning "Street Signs." The brassy "Magnolia Soul" honored the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Singer-guitarist Raul Pacheco invited the packed house to "take the cosmic low-rider to East L.A." for "After Party," a confection that ought to blare from car windows all summer. By the time M.C. Jabu Smith-Freeman jumped up onto the left bar to lead the band through the party anthem "Saturday Night," it seemed the temperature couldn't get any higher.
Closing the set proper, a careening "La Misma Cancion" became a marching-band vamp when the band quit the stage for the floor -- with the sweaty throng surrounding them and the horn players aiming skyward so as not to knock anybody's teeth out as they continued to blow. Those who'd manned electric instruments traded them for tambourines and cowbells, banging out a primal rhythm as they made several slow orbits of the room before concluding the gig from atop the front lobby merchandise tables.
Ozomatli's records sometimes suffer from too-much-all-at-once, but onstage, more is more. What saves the group's merrily ungoverned shows from the dreaded torpor of the jam bands is its demonstrated belief that the way to raise your consciousness is to raise your pulse.
-- Chris Klimek