Sound Check: Reggae Meltdown in Kent; student bands rock for Foodbank

By Malcolm X Abram Beacon Journal pop music writer

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French group Paris Combo

Saturday will be April 20, aka 420. If you’re familiar with the herbological implications of that number, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that downtown Kent is playing host to the big Reggae Meltdown/Island Music Festival this Friday night at 13 downtown venues.

The music starts at 5 p.m. and the bulk of the shows are free, with a nice variety of area reggae and island bands (what? No B.E. Mann?). There will be several bands playing at the same time but there should be plenty of good skanking to be had throughout the night as a few bands are slated to play three- and four-hour sets. Get ready to hear a lot of Bob Marley tunes.

Here’s the schedule to help you plan your evening:

5-7 p.m.: Shade Flex at the Loft, 112 W. Main St.

5:30-8:30 p.m.: Flash in the Pan at the Pufferbelly, 152 Franklin Ave.

5-7 p.m.: Ras Pablo and the True Culture Reggae Band at the Pub, 142 W. Day St. at Franklin Avenue.

7-9 p.m.: Alex Bevan at Ray’s Place, 135 Franklin Ave.

7-10 p.m.: Gato’s Gullah Gumbo at Mugs Brew Pub and Sports Grill, 211 Franklin Ave.

7-10 p.m.: Colin John at Water Street Tavern, 132 S. Water St.

7-10 p.m.: Rhode Street Rude Boys at Tree City Coffee & Pastry, 135 E. Erie St.

7:30-10 p.m.: Umojah Nation at the Ohio Music Shop, 118 E. Main St.

8 p.m.: Carlos Jones, Tropidelic and B-Side Dubs at Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St.

8 p.m. to midnight: Outlaws I & I at Dominick’s, 147 Franklin Ave.

8 p.m. to midnight: Evan Evolution & Danny Jah at 157 Lounge, 157 S. Water St. (Does this group sound like a Jamaican anime superhero duo to anyone else?)

9-11 p.m.: 5 Elements at Bar 145, 100 E. Erie St., Suite 130.

9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.: The Ark Band at Ray’s Place, 135 Franklin Ave.

10 p.m. to midnight: Human Nature at the Zephyr Pub, 106 W. Main St.

10 p.m. to midnight: Ras Pablo and the True Culture Reggae Band at the Pub, 142 W. Day St. at Franklin Avenue.

All the shows are free, save the eight bucks you’ll need for the big show at the Kent Stage, featuring Cleveland reggae king Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band, the Caribbean-flavored Tropidelic and, all the way from the reggae capital of upstate New York, Farnham, the B-Side Dubs.

Music for a good cause

On Saturday, the Fairlawn and Hudson Schools of Music will play host to their first Rock for a Good Cause benefit concert from 4 to 9 p.m. at the (not Ripper Owens) Tap House, with proceeds going to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s annual Harvest for Hunger Campaign.

Eight student bands will perform, and the price of admission is a minimum $5 donation or five nonperishable food items. (If you want to donate food, great, but please don’t just grab that 6-year-old can of garbanzo beans in buttermilk or pork brains in gravy — 3,190 milligrams of cholesterol! — you forgot was in the back of your pantry.)

I’ve spent some time at one of the many variations on the Schools of Rock, and have generally found the kids to be excited about the opportunity to play in front of audiences, so this should be a fun if uneven afternoon/evening of possible future rock stars. Student performers are Nate Stanton, New Band, Incite the Riot, Beyond the Boundaries, Halfway Home, the obviously confident No Expectations, Dan Band and Dead Fall.

France is in the house

Are you a Francophile? Do you love the sound of jaunty, catchy contemporary cabaret and chanson sprinkled with gypsy jazz, Latin and African rhythms?

On Friday night, you’ll want to grab your favorite mademoiselle or monsieur and take a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art for an evening of sexy, sophisticated and quite hip music from the Paris Combo, on a rare North American tour that begins in Cleveland.

Paris Combo is fronted by charismatic singer/accordionist Belle Du Berry (even her name packs charisma) along with guitarist Potzi, drummer Francois Jeanin, trumpeter/pianist David Lewis and upright bassist Emmanuel Chabbey. The group has five albums and is on tour for its latest, 5.

I’ve been digging this band’s sound since its 1998 sophomore album Living Room, and though I understand not a lick of French, the band’s breezy grooves, eclectic but always very French music, and Berry’s catchy melodies and the alluring way she wraps her lips around her native tongue always make me smile and tap my toes.

On 5, its first album in eight years, the Paris Combo offers a dozen songs about the vagaries of love (at least that’s what the promo stuff says; they could be singing about dolphin genocide and it would still sound jaunty to me) all buoyed by the band’s tight musicianship. It hasn’t been in Cleveland since the mid-2000s, so even if you’re not a Francophile but just a global musical adventurer, the combo puts on an entertaining show, and pretty much any woman speaking with a French accent sounds sexy.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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