YOU DON'T HAVE to road trip to New Orleans for your Mardi Gras party; it's right here at home. The Catholic holiday, which falls on Fat Tuesday (47 days before Easter), is marked with rowdy celebrations throughout the south, particularly in Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida. But Seattle's Mardi Gras fetes have their own rich history, and this year Pioneer Square's nightclubs have lined up reggae, punk, and rap all-stars to provide the soundtrack for the party in the streets.
Pioneer Square, March 1-7
The weeklong festivities, which began on Wednesday, March 1, and continue through Tuesday, March 7, feature a blend of Pi-Square regulars like Jamie Sheets and the Sheet Rockers, the Tim Turner Band, and many of the clubs' resident DJs, but it's the lineup of national acts that promises to light the fire in this Mardi Gras shindig.
In the case of Jamaica's Anthony B, make that international. A fast-rising star in the reggae world, Anthony's newest disc, Seven Seals (VP), finds him running with a post-Buju Banton mixture of dancehall killers and "conscious" ballads deeply rooted in spiritual beliefs. Despite having recorded six solo albums and appeared on dozens by other artists, the 24-year-old Anthony managed 18 new songs for the album, and there's plenty here—particularly the remix of "Hello Mama Africa," which features Banton and Garnett Silk—that suggests he'll be able to get the Bohemian Backstage jumping when he appears Friday (3/3).
But I ask you: Is there any band in the world more suited to the Mardi Gras spirit than the 2 Live Crew? I think not, especially if you take the holiday's party attitude to heart. Because if there's anything 2 Live Crew are all about, it's partying. Hell, they even recorded what is surely the greatest Miami bass treatment of "Happy Birthday" in existence. Sure, their sense of celebration is an extreme one: They've even been arrested for it, standing trial as what Village Voice writer Lisa Jones unforgettably classified as "the Signifying Monkees." But the group won't be getting arrested when they play the Bohemian Backstage on Thursday. In fact, it's safe to say that these days, the 2 Live Crew—down to original members Kid Fresh Ice and Brother Marquis, entrepreneur/controversy-lightning-rod Luther Campbell having gone solo eight years ago—couldn't get arrested if they tried.
That assessment doesn't apply to Frank Black, but ever since he went solo in 1992, he's found his star falling. This is unfortunate. Even though his recent work's gotten nowhere near the respect afforded his former band, and while the Pixies' bruising guitars and 16-horsepower rhythms may have been ahead of their time yadda yadda yadda, some of us will take the arch pop arrangements and sharp songwriting of Teenager of the Year over Surfer Rosa's overrated sturm-und-clang any day. Black may have fallen off the mainstream map (he now records for New York indie spinART, alongside fellow major-label refugees the Poster Children and the Apples in Stereo), but his audience is one of rock's most ardent. He headlines the Fenix on Friday (3/3).
If 2 Live Crew are hip-hop's biggest clowns, Rakim remains one of its most revered figures, though his eminence is on some fairly slippery ground. For one thing, the five years he took off after his swan song with DJ Eric B, 1992's Don't Sweat the Technique, found his legend growing so far beyond reasonable proportion that daring to suggest he might not be the best rap lyricist ever got you evil glares and worse from hip-hop fanatics. Equally overinflated is the reputation of his first album, 1987's Paid in Full, which has far more filler ("Chinese Arithmetic," yawn) than any so-called "masterpiece" should be allowed. So when Rakim dropped his good-but-not-great The 18th Letter in 1997, his comeback fell rather short of its intended impact, and his new The Master found a somewhat indifferent reception. But even if you're not convinced he's God, as some overzealous fans straight-facedly refer to him, he's still one of the finest MCs of all time. He plays the Bohemian Backstage on Sunday (3/5); expect a lovefest.