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Slightly Stoopid + NOFX + Stephen Marley

(26 Jul 2014: Sleep Train Ampitheater — Chula Vista, CA)

San Diego rockers deliver triumphant homecoming show on Summer Sessions Tour

Above: Photo by David Norris / The Pier from Slightly Stoopid’s Facebook.

The Mayan New Year saw San Diego blessed with a homecoming show from local heroes Slightly Stoopid, as their “Summer Sessions” tour hit town on a Saturday night at the old shed in Chula Vista. The venue has gone through so many corporate name changes that few locals can keep track of what it’s called anymore. But it still has one of the best sound systems in the nation, such that warnings were even posted about the potential volume damage to one’s hearing.

Slightly Stoopid have become San Diego’s biggest local rock stars, elevating them to a larger than life status in the town that legendary local anchorman Ron Burgundy once dubbed “the Whale’s Vagina”. They’ve even enlisted local saxman and jazz flute virtuoso Karl Denson to join their horn section on an ongoing basis, a major coup since Denson is probably the second most well-known music star in the region. He used to just sit in on occasion, while Slightly Stoopid co-founders and multi-instrumentalists Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald have also performed with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe for shows such as the Beastie Boys tribute tour that Denson launched in 2012.

It now looks like Denson has signed on for permanent duty in Slightly Stoopid’s rebel alliance, which only gives the band a stronger connection with the Force. They recorded a song called “Jedi” on their 1998 album The Longest Barrell Ride and their 2013 summer tour posters featured an ingenious design with the Mos Eisley Cantina Band. Slightly Stoopid also earned significant points in the jam rock scene when they were invited to record a live show at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in Marin County in 2011, during which Weir and other guests sat in with the band. Jam rock fans love collaborations and while Slightly Stoopid may not be a jamband per se, their efforts to mingle in the scene have certainly increased their stature.

The band cites a diverse array of influences including the Beasties, Led Zeppelin, Dr. Dre, the Marleys, Nirvana, Sublime, UB40, the Police, Don Carlos, the Meters, Miles Davis, NWA and more. Few bands dare to incorporate such wide-ranging sounds and Slightly Stoopid’s ability to mix rock and reggae with dub, grunge and hip-hop is a large part of how they appeal to such a broad fanbase.

Stephen Marley was opening the show here, although the early 6 pm start time made it tough for many San Diegans to make it in time (not to mention many ticket-holders who were still tailgating in the parking lots at the early evening hour.) Marley had quite an ensemble on the stage, as it looked like he’d brought a large contingent of Jamaican family on tour. He also had a shining gold Lion of Judah centerpiece on stage, a symbol of the Rastafari religion. The lion also looks a lot like Aslan from Narnia though. Could Aslan have been a Rastafari devotee? A hot jam on “Could You Be Loved” toward the end of the set had the audience sharing the groove and it was only too bad that the set started too soon for many to witness.

The crowd continued to grow as the sun continued to set, with punk rockers NOFX hitting the stage around 7:30 pm. It was here that the warning signs about the potential volume of the sound system were recalled as the band played a raucous hour-long set at extreme volume. It was hard to tell what NOFX was singing about much of the time, as their vocals don’t cut through the mix as clearly as a punk rock band like Anti-Flag, who incorporate more melodic rock sensibilities into their sound. But one could make out some anti-war lyrics about the situation in Afghanistan here and there, and the world certainly can use more bands speaking truth to power like NOFX does.

It seemed a bit of a mismatch to have a blisteringly loud punk band playing before a headliner known more for their laid back grooves, although there were moments when the mutual appreciation society between the bands made it clear how the pairing came to be. NOFX played some reggae rock in tribute to Slightly Stoopid and Slightly Stoopid returned the favor with some heavy punk, showing how the divergent genres share some of the same spirit. 

Slightly Stoopid hit the stage around 9 pm before a crowd that was amped up and ready to rock. The band’s two-hour show covered a wide variety of bases, with a focus on the reggae rock and rap style that is the band’s bread and butter. Having the energetic Denson leading a three-piece horn section added to the show’s festive flavor, with Denson and his mates looking like they were jogging in place to the music at times. The band’s most recent studio album is titled Top of the World and Doughty and McDonald looked like they were sitting on top of the world, having a blast kicking down the jams for the hometown crowd.

The sweet leaf was plentiful in the air as would be expected at a show where the event poster featured Ren and Stimpy getting completely baked. The psychedelia-tinged grooves resonated beautifully on such a clear summer night and there was a triumphant homecoming vibe in the air throughout the set. The band’s dub version of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” increased the state of euphoria and helped demonstrate the band’s diversity when compared with other covers, like a ragged but righteous rendition of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” that was dedicated “for Kurt up in heaven”.

A super funkified encore of “Express Yourself” kicked the dance party into overdrive, with an anthemic flavor that charged the night. It seemed like an appropriate way to wrap up the evening for a band that expresses funky flavors in such a wide array of sonic forms.

Greg M. Schwartz has covered music and pop culture for PopMatters since 2006. He focuses on events coverage with a preference for guitar-driven rock 'n' roll, but has eclectic tastes for the golden age of sound that is the 21st century music scene. He has a soft spot for music with a socially conscious flavor and is also an award-winning investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @gms111, where he's always looking for tips on new bands or under the radar news items.

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