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Lee Scratch Perry @ Highline Ballroom in NYC – pics & setlist

words & photos by Benjamin Lozovsky

Happy Holidays! I take on more than I can handle. That results in a lot of unposted content. In the name of catching up, while also taking it easy during this final/first week of the year, here’s some of that lost material.

Lee Scratch Perry

With golden-encrusted boots, bristly magenta beard and childlike eyes that could sit deeply sunken on any familiar septuagenarian relative, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry wheeled his suitcase on stage. By the time he departed his performance at the Highline Ballroom, Perry took with him more than his Selassie-emblazoned luggage; he had ran off with the crowd’s sanity.

Although the reggae world has its fair share of pioneers still eluding that eternal cloud of weed smoke in the sky, few remain as colorful and essential of a performer as Perry. Arguably one of the genre’s originators and certainly greatest innovators, the 73 year-old singer/producer continues to tour and be a playful if not amusingly confounding stage presence. With more patches and flair on his jacket than an alt-rock preteen, his outfit alone was eye candy; Perry’s music, navigated by a top-notch touring band, was equally appetizing.

Perry was preceded by a set of sarcastic battle hip hop by underground vet Pacewon and DJ Mr. Green, as well as a performance of one-dimensional, sloppy garage rock from Philly duo PO PO. Fans seemed to appear out of nowhere to fill up the venue just in time for Perry, whose soft voice shot through the sound system before he joined his already skanking backing group on stage. Surrounded by younger musicians, Perry’s characteristic style was at moments more aggressive than laid-back and ethereal, and there weren’t as many stuttering snares and waves of reverb as one might expect from this progenitor of dub. Despite that, the plinking keyboards and tiptoeing riddims of classics like “Roast Fish and Cornbread” and “Dreadlocks In Moonlight” were still worn in and luxurious.

More pictures from Lee Perry‘s December show at Highline Ballroom, below…

PaceWon and Mr. Green

Pace Won and Mr. Green

Pace Won and Mr. Green

Po Po

Po Po

Po Po

Po Po

Po Po

Po Po

Po Po

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