Arts and Entertainment
Jan. 9 and 16, Blakes
Be wary of hyperbolic proclamations from music critics. We are prone to overly dramatic declarations (i.e., "The best concert I've ever seen!" "The dopest album out there!" "The nastiest groove around!") that mean absolutely nothing five minutes later. For the most part we mean well, and of course, we're full of shit. By admitting this right off the bat, I hope to dispel all doubts surrounding the two proclamations proffered here:
(1) Hebro's Wednesday night shows at Blake's are the hippest, most happening thing I've seen in a long, long time. (2) Hebro is the best acoustic ska band I've seen in my entire life.
Doesn't matter that they're the only acoustic ska band I've ever seen, because the midweek mood they get going at Leona's (what the upstairs bar at Blakes is affectionately known as) is a cross between the beautiful people-opium den thing Janet Jackson captured in her "That's the Way Love Goes" video, the stoned people-pot den thing my living room becomes every time VH1 runs a Behind the Music marathon, and a rude boy's version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? In other words, Hebro's nights at Blakes are super cozy, way chill, and populated with cute people you can hit on if you're not too high.
The band's name is an amalgam of the words Hebrew and brother, something cofounders Benny Silverman (the Jewish guy) and Musashi Lethridge (the African American-Japanese guy), a.k.a. Moose, thought would be (in Moose's words) "kinda funny." And it's perfect, because even though these guys have their tongues lodged firmly in their cheeks most of the time, what emerges from the collaboration is often wickedly clever a seamless hybrid of musical genres (blues, ska, funk, hip-hop, pop, and folk), some witty banter soul-stirring proof that irony can indeed be passionate and wise, and that hell, maybe we can all get along.
The first Wednesday I went, Moose, Silverman, and recent Hebro addition Mikie Lee Prasad put on two highly entertaining sets for a scruffily chic crowd wedged behind red-painted tables and into the overstuffed sofas recently added to the bar's decor. Silverman, who sings, told me the first half was the "blues set" (guitarists Moose and Prasad are onstage fixtures at Blake's long-running Monday night Blues Jam), which wasn't exactly a blues set but a blues-driven, often funky chunk of lovely strummed tunes that demonstrated that if your heart is in the right place, damn near everything is the blues. Playing his six-string and working a foot-triggered wood block, Moose (formerly of ska bands the Vibe Raiders and Critical Mass) took on most of the vocal and lead guitar duties and at one point delivered an aw-shucks-sweet version of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home." For the second set, Silverman (also formerly of the Vibe Raiders) joined in, the guys bumped into ska mode, and I gotta admit, with the offbeats going, all three boys bouncing on the bar stools they were perched on, and Benny's disclosure that "95 percent of our songs are about girls," I was sprung by the time they launched into a gorgeous rendition of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up," on which Silverman's altar-boy tenor swooped and crooned in all the right places.
So sprung, in fact, that I returned the next week to catch the ska set once more. This time, upright bassist Dan Stanton joined in the fun, and the crazy thing was, the tunes sounded even better this time around, with Hebro originals such as "Sorries" and "10 Years Ago" ringing in my ears like old standards and holding their own next to classics such as Hepcat's "Dance with Me" and Toots and the Maytals' "5446." And honestly, you've gotta love a band that's got tip jars onstage reading "Peace," "Unity," and "Diapers" (Stanton recently became a father).
OK, so Hebro is the dopest Jewish-black-acoustic-ska-blues-funky-groovy-chill-out band around, got it? See you there next Wednesday. Hebro plays Wednesdays, 10 p.m., Blakes, 2367 Telegraph, Berk. (877) 488-6533. (Sylvia W. Chan)