It was nearly 11 pm at the Electric Pickle on North Miami Avenue and 28 street. A large, unmarked bus sat in front of the small club’s entrance next to an abandoned unit laden with trash and graffiti. For ten dollars, folks were allowed inside to drink and dance to the rhythms of Miami-based reggae group, Fourth Dimension and Asheville, North Carolina’s own Toubab Krewe.
Inside, there were a few people. Many of them sat at the bar, enjoying overpriced drinks (five dollars for a 12 oz. PBR?), but most patrons were relaxing outside, enjoying the cool night air that only comes around South Florida throughout the fall and winter. The smell of reefer and cigarettes wafted in and out by the red-lit billiards table.
“I’m ready for some reggae,“ said Ashley Rivero as she leveled her cue and aimed her shot. Rivero had never heard of Toubab Krewe. Nor had a number of people in attendance. This show was Toubab’s first Miami appearance.
“They’ve never played in Miami, but they’ve played Ft. Lauderdale a bunch,” said Alicia Karlin, Toubab Krewe’s manager.
Still, those there for Toubab could be picked out of the crowd– tie-dyes and Fear and Loathing-style Bear Creek shirts stuck out like ripped hippies in a stockholders meeting.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them for the third time,” said Ricardo Mere. Mere last saw Toubab Krewe perform at the Blackwater music festival. “They have a vibe that drew me to them,” said Mere.
It was then the music started up. Fourth Dimension delivered their rootsy blend of original reggae with soul and precision.
After about an hour or so, the band played a final tune and packed up to make room for Toubab Krewe.
As Fourth Dimension wrapped up their equipment, many folks retired to the back patio for a breath of fresh air—or a few smokes. By this time, the Electric Pickle’s clientele has clearly doubled. Toubab Krewe unloaded their unique array of West African and traditional American rock instruments.
“It’s awesome music,” said Paddy Scace, who helped put this show together with Embrace, a company based out of Toronto, Canada. “They’re the only band doing what they do in the world—or at least in North America. It’s shows like this that Miami doesn’t usually get.”
After a short while of ambient music from inside the club, the distinct sound of a slowly plucked kora floated lazily out the back door.
At once, the back patio bustled with newfound energy. It seemed everybody stood up and made for the club simultaneously. People whooped and hollered in excitement and they made their way to the dance floor.
The club was packed by the time Toubab Krewe started playing. Their distinct vibes filled the room with a colorful sound unheard of to many Miami clubbers whom are more accustomed to droning bass and tinkling electronic bells and whistles. The sound was earthy and raw, appealing to that primal area of the mind long since buried by the comforts of modern technology.
The music was relentless and beautiful. Everybody on the dance floor was getting down. Couples grinding, singles grooving—four fine looking young women cutting loose on top of a long, folding plastic table that just an hour before was Fourth Dimension’s merch site.
Among some highlights of Toubab’s performance were an extended drum jam and a slow, painfully penitent sounding song featuring Cecil Perkins, the kora player, on vocals.
“You can stomp down the flowers up and down my grave, but they will rise up and bloom again,” yelped Perkins.
Toubab Krewe kept the people grooving until nearly 3 am. For the first time performing in Miami, Cecil Perkins was satisfied.
“Nice folks, very supportive,” said Perkins. “They definitely got their dancing shoes on!”