Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra - Crescent Ballroom - 12/8/2013
Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra really packed the people in to the partitioned Crescent Ballroom on Sunday night having easily more than 200 people arrive ready to dance for their fifth show ever, and their first since June.
Photos by Jeff Moses
The group, which describes itself as a "musical collective," consists of 14 musicians--and among the 14 musicians there are about 20 other bands represented in the group, including Cheri Cheri, Drunken Immortals, Zero Zero, Playboy Manbaby, Spirit Cave, The Sweet Bleeders, and quite a few more.
"How amazing is it that afrobeat brings us all together like this?" said bass player Merrick Wright, one of the only members who described PAO (pronounced POW) as his main project. The afrobeat brought more than just PAO together, however--as with any great Phoenix show the music community came out in force to support. Out in the crowd Phoenix music figures like John Luther of The Haymarket Squares, DJ Shane Kennedy, and Stateside Presents honcho Jeremiah Graza were dancing the night away in the packed house.
"That makes a big difference, when the crowd is just as hyped as we are and dancing the whole time and screaming and hands in the air--that's just amazing. We needed that energy," says vocalist Andrea Benell, also of Phoenix House Music Allstars. "The crowd was awesome; it was fun to hear everything and see everyone and introduce some new material," added drummer David Marquez, also of Spirit Cave and The Sweetbleeders.
The night got going with some DJ sets by the band's keyboardist, Yojimbo Billions, then the bongo player Jason Pope, and then right before the band percussionist Melissa Waddell. The DJs played a wide selection of EDM, world beat, Afrobeat, and other funky dance tracks from a set up on the floor of the venue. But it did not seem like the room really started to cut a rug until PAO brought their huge sound to the stage.
PAO played an hour-long set of afrobeat standards like "Water Don't Get Enemy," and "Tears of Blood," by Fela Kuti, "Progress" by Tony Allen, and "Somakosa" by Manu Domingo.