In his day, Judge Bill Gibron passed many a "dutchie" on the left-hand side. It's just too bad he didn't have this excellent jam band—and their new concert DVD—along for the reefer ride.
Smoke 'em if you Got 'em
They got their start playing in high school. Both loved rock and folk, as well as the more off-the-radar sounds of reggae, dub, blues, hip-hop, punk, and metal. Forging a sound reminiscent of a casual day smoking pot in the California sun, multi-instrumentalists Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald took on the name Slightly Stoopid and decided to make music their life. They were lucky enough to be recognized by Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell and the laid-back sonic surfers soon found themselves signed to ska pioneer's Skunk Records.
Two albums followed, both experiments in sound searching and style cementing. Suddenly, Slightly Stoopid seemed poised for a breakout. Yet it was only after they sat down for an unplugged jam session for a local radio station that they found themselves a true West Coast phenomenon. The resulting CD issue of the broadcast—entitled Live and Direct: Acoustic Roots—created quite a stir and opened the group's free-spirit vibe to an even larger legion of fans. Now with two more albums of material under their belt (2003's Everything You Need and 2005's Closer to the Sun), Slightly Stoopid is poised to take on the DVD domain as well. Live from San Diego features the band in remarkably fine form, the band's hypnotic, groove-oriented tunes elevating the already "fired up" crowd to a decidedly "higher" ground.
Before this review goes any further, here's a minor creative caveat about Slightly Stoopid. Basically there are a few important questions you must answer before attempting this title. Are you still longing for the days when SoCal skate-heads Sublime mixed ganja with gansta to create a kind of marijuana-induced pro-party vibe? Are you the kind of person who doesn't mind missing the odd lyric as long as the aural ambience is right? Does it bother you when musicians utilize the same riffs and licks over and over again, obviously enamored with how they sound? Depending on your responses, your enjoyment of this 90-minute show will definitely be affected. For some, this will sound like a non-stop cover version of "What I Got." For others, a group like Bad Brains did the whole roots-rock-reggae-punk dub thing a heck of a lot better decades ago. Still, if you simply sit back and let the music wash over you, you'll find that Slightly Stoopid is evocative and engaging. In this concert DVD collected from two separate performances at the House of Blues (you can tell the different shows by the headgear worn by Kyle McDonald), we get to hear the following tracks:
"Bandolero"—from the 2005 album Closer to the Sun
In all honestly, when the band's not playing at the whole skater-punk thing, Slightly Stoopid makes excellent chill-out music. The basic instrumentation—delicately plucked guitar, amplified and echoed, loose goose bass links slinking in between the notes, percussions percolating under a standard shuffle drumbeat—recalls a tropical bar band soothing away the sun's heat for a bunch of baked Caribbean tourists. The lyrics get lost in a vibe of unbridled calm and our mind starts drifting to thoughts of sand, surf, and sensimilla. More or less taking up the pro-pot mantle from fellow pro-cannabis Cali comrades like Cyprus Hill, a lot of the banter revolves around "blazin'" and "tokin'." The songs also preach a kind of drug-induced dimension to life. They see the world through resin-covered glasses and want to invite us along for the sweet smoky ride. If you are offended by constant references to herb and reefer, if you cringe at the thought of sweaty white guys giving Rastafarians a run for their talented toasting, if you believe that the death of Jerry Garcia was a good thing in regards to the whole jam band ideal of concerts, then you'll have definite problems with the production here. Everyone else can simply enjoy the fine four-piece polish of this band's excellent musicianship and feel the beauty that said buzz creates.
Shout! Factory's packaging of this presentation sounds very promising. This critic received a screener copy of the DVD, along with a 30-track double CD preview collection. The music is amazing, very moody and mellow. The concert, on the other hand, was hampered by the lack of true technical specs. The image was not anamorphic (it appeared to be a 1.85:1 letterboxed offering), the sound was not presented in a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix, and there were NO extras (a band interview and on-the-road footage were promised). What you'll get when you plunk down your cash and buy one of Shout! Factory's copies is, as far as this critic is concerned, a completely unknown quantity. The transfer looked decent, the digital video capturing the colorful aspects of the performance perfectly. The sound was succinct and very crisp, the instruments offered in excellent spatial separation. The CDs were a nice touch. Still, unless a true version of the disc arrives before the June release date, you will be going in blind when making your purchase.
It definitely bears repeating that Slightly Stoopid will not appeal to everyone. Individuals looking to bang versus feeding their heads will probably hate everything these pot poseurs stand for. If you give them a chance, though, their subtle, sultry sounds will definitely get under your skin. Slightly Stoopid is actually very good.
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