Published Jul 20, 2013Santa Cruz's the Expendables kicked off the first Phillip's Backyard Weekender event with a fairly entertaining offering of groove-heavy reggae that was super crunchy, bro. Guitar soloing was in abundance, more than I would expect from a reggae act, and was accented by frontman Geoff Weers' mad power-rock skills, complete with a Mortal Kombat-esque flying leg kick. The only real misstep of their short set was when Weers mistakenly declared that the band was happy to see that marijuana is legal in BC (it isn't) before launching into an ill-advised cover of the classic Peter Tosh weed anthem "Legalize It." Swing and a miss on that one.
Another California reggae act, the Dirty Heads, took up arms next for another slab of sunny reggae music, though probably a little more rootsy than their Expendables counterparts. They were most successful when they stuck to that straight-ahead reggae formula and stumbled a bit when they forayed into the world of hip-hop. The band's look — tattoos, some long greasy-looking hair and a lot of black clothes — probably made their music seem a little grimier than it actually was. Funny how appearance can change the way one hears music.
It's always easier to play to a crowd who knows you, who is waiting for you and the Cat Empire did not disappoint their fans who seemingly came out in droves to check the Australian groove-meisters. It's amazing how quickly a band can bring together 2,000 people by simply getting them to sing "Na na na na na na!" or "Ooooh oooh oooh!" and it's a method that the guys in the Cat Empire deployed often. This is not a complaint. Hordes of rowdy party goers need simple things to keep everyone on the same wavelength.
New and old songs like "Prophets in the Sky" and "Two Shoes," respectively, sexily wormed their way around the crowd getting hips moving in every direction, while songs like the powerful anti-war song "The Chariot" drew unison vocals as people joyfully joined into the chorus singing "Our weapons were our instruments / made from timbre and steel!" It was just a little reminder that even though everyone was dancing there are still other things happening around us. But really, dancing is the important thing. Cat Empire — more like Fun Empire.