Another Wednesday night is melting into another Thursday morning and See-I is covering Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” for the 600th time, give or take a couple hundred. But somehow, the D.C. reggae troupe makes it sound as if it’s inventing this groove on the spot — everybody chasing after the rhythm without stepping on anybody’s toes.
Onstage, it’s all telepathy. Backstage, it’s all babble. Instead of quiet time between sets, the members of See-I gab through their 15-minute break at high speeds and high volumes, swapping tips about pomegranate juice, vacuum cleaners and how to breeze through TSA out of Tijuana with minimum hassle. Whether making music or small talk, the band remains a babbling hive-mind, perpetually teaching itself new tricks.
What about everyone out there? Has See-I learned anything from the crowd during its 13-year Wednesday-night residency at Eighteenth Street Lounge? “Man, we learn so much from this audience,” vocalist and bandleader Zeebo Steele says, “because this audience changes.”
And that makes sense. Washington is a city of transients. Citizens of the nightlife come and go. “No, no!” shouts guitarist Rob Myers over his bandmates’ laughter. “We’ll have three sets — and we’ll play to three different audiences each night!”
Which means this group can feel its fundamental belief being confirmed on a yearly, weekly and hourly basis — that is, reggae music has something to communicate to everyone. “Traveling around the world, I have heard reggae in English, in French, in any language,” says Desi Hyson, a veteran keyboardist who used to play in the Wailers and Culture before joining See-I. “Sometimes, I don’t understand anything they say. But I do!”
Show: June 19 — and every Wednesday night — at 11 p.m. at Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th St. NW. $5-$10.