The Granada Theater was surprisingly hot Thursday night, the air conditioning unable to keep up with all of the smoldering sounds and dancing bodies. The dance floor was already pretty crowded when I got there at 8:15, and I was immediately tapped on the shoulder by a tall, bearded gentleman who politely inquired whether I knew anything about the first band. I was never so proud to name drop when I told him that I did, in fact, know The Effinays.
It's one thing to play a killer show in Denton where appreciation of all things musical is unusually high among the general population. But it's quite another to bring the same kind of energy and enthusiasm to a big stage in Dallas where not everyone has heard of you. The five-piece group did a superb job of representing their home and themselves, in fact they sound better and better every single time I see them. The saxophone was dead on, the groove was tight, and the transitions from high-powered funk to cool reggae jams were smooth as silk.
When the drummer informed the crowd that there would only be a few more tunes, he got boos and sighs from an unsatiated audience. "Ok, one more" he acquiesced good-naturedly, and then cautioned us that they were going to play a song that they hadn't rehearsed. I was expecting a tune that was a little blurry around the edges, but instead I heard some of the sickest bass solos of the entire night coupled with seriously funky guitar riffs and a rock solid drum beat that left us all wanting more.
Next up was Don Chani, which could easily be dubbed (pun definitely intended) the reigning Reggae Kings of Austin. Every song that they play is really like two or three mini songs, each separated by brilliant and extraordinary interludes that spanned the distance from chilled-out roots reggae to scorching hot Latin numbers. I was blown away by the precision with which the entire band would drop out completely, only to bring the beat back to uproarious applause and laughter from an audience that was still clapping and singing along in the brief silence.
Don Chani is fantastic at keeping the audience's eyes glued to the stage for the duration of their performance. Every single member plays their instrument and sings as if there is no distinction their physical bodies and the sounds they are making. They all danced nonstop and moved around to jam with each other individually, all wearing expressions of pure joy as they sweated and grooved for over an hour. Of course, the audience caught the vibe and gave it right back, packing the dance floor and shouting and whooping along with the band. The energy in the room was incredible, and at times my eyes almost teared up to see such a diverse crowd interacting so blissfully.
The Effinays and Don Chani are both hard acts to follow, and Mishka did an admirable job trying to keep up. At first glance, Mishka looks like an ordinary white guy. Wrong! According to the biography on his website (mishka.com), this man is anything but ordinary. He spent his childhood sailing around the Caribbean with his family, and so it comes as no surprise that his music and outlook are infused with the many rich cultures native to that region.
I must admit I was expecting something a little bit more gritty; I was not prepared for such pretty reggae/acoustic/folk pop. Every song was held together effortlessly by his skilled four-piece backing band, but the songs and message were a little on the light side. As with most reggae groups they began to lose the crowd when the ventured into the gray area between reggae and folk rock. The message was genuine but repetitive, and they played too many ballads that sounded similar to one another. Mishka's voice was timid and a little reedy when he first began, but as he continued his voice opened up. He could croon softly with a warm, inviting tone, belt out a rapid-fire line in heavily-accented English, and then stretch his voice paper thin as he yelled out to the audience. He visibly loosened up as the show progressed, beginning to bob and pick up his knees under the weight of his guitar.
When he finally put down his guitar, he really got the audience's attention. With his hands and body free, he started moving around the stage and taking more risks vocally, moving from acoustic reggae to a dancehall-style bop. He became more expressive and started dancing, and the audience just loved it. I would have liked to have seen him start the show like that, with the kind of easy confidence to take us all in hand and lead us on his musical journey together. He was such an interesting character, I felt like the audience was begging for him to open up a little bit more about his unusual life and perspective. Like what is it like playing traditionally Bohemian music for all of us greedy possession-hoarding mainland Americans? Towards the end of the show, he started talking a little bit more to the audience, letting us in a little bit with his lyrical Caribbean accent: "We're trying to plug a hole at the bottom of the sea. Maybe it's just the times, you know. But you just got to keep living"
Mishka was named 'Best New Artist' of 2009 by iTunes, and his third album Talk About was released this past March. Mishka was also recently signed on to be sponsored by clothing company O'Neill for their new line ECO'Neill, a line devoted to eco-friendly production of clothing.
Check out the videos below to see the show for yourself.
First and foremost, We're sorry. Not sure when or where this took place, but The Effinays are upbeat, laid back, nice guys that sincerely appreciate their listeners and the fact they spend their time supporting and coming to shows.
We are all very approachable guys who look very forward to meeting the folks who come to see them. Maybe you caught an off night or something, but The Effinays are not in the business of disappointing, especially when it comes to attitude. We apologize and appreciate you coming forward with this so that we can internally address the situation and make sure we don't make the same mistake twice. Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!
I've met the effinays & although the drummer and guitar players are both nice, the sax & other dude have zero personality. It is just nice to finally meet a band that you like to listen to and find they are all decent people. This was a let down with the effinays.