On December 14 2016 A Tribe Called Red, brought their Electric Pow Wow to Kingston Ontario and raised the roof at Stages Night Club. For those who don't know the three man DJ crew (Ian "DJ" Campeau, Tim "2oolman" Hill, and Bear Witness) mix traditional indigenous music from Canada and rest of the world with electronic beats, samples of pop songs and spoken word to create some of the most exciting and exhilarating dance music out there.
While their recent album We Are The Halluci-Nation was perhaps their most overtly political album yet, that hasn't done anything to diminish their abilities as entertainers. In fact judging by the sold out audience filling the space not only has their popularity increased it brings together one of the most diverse audiences I've ever seen at a concert.
All races and ages mixed together under one roof dancing and grooving to the sounds these three guys generated without any of the crap you usually find in an atmosphere fuelled by alcohol and loud music was something of a miracle to me. Normally you can't walk into any bar in this city without some sort of testosterone overload happening. So to see everybody simply focused on having a good time and the music was a tribute to the potency of their performance.
I say performance, because the three men of A Tribe Called Red don't just stand up behind a stack of equipment focusing on their equipment. They are involved with the audience - looking around, smiling and even jumping out from behind the equipment to dance on the speaker stacks. I've not seem many other DJ acts in a long time but these guys are not only able to do their mixes live but make it seem like they are just as, if not more, involved with their audience than most bands with instruments.
The music itself was a brilliant collage of sampled music, electronically generated sounds, and spoken voice all anchored by the sound of various First Nations drum groups. While as expected there were tracks from the recent disc; "Halluci-Nation" (featuring the voice of the late John Trudell) and "The Virus", there were also some unexpected delights as well. To all of a sudden hear bits of the old Paul Revere and the Raiders' song "Cherokee Nation" blasting out of the speakers was a hoot. It's obvious A Tribe Called Red have a sense of humour.
While I said the political content of their songs wasn't as prevalent in concert as it is on their album, in some ways their whole concert is a statement. They are telling a room packed with predominately non-native people, this is who First Nations people of Canada are today.
Their music is firmly based around the heartbeat of the traditional drum and deeply embedded in the culture of their people but is not wedded to the past. It is saying we are not the stereotypical stoic Indian brave of the movies or the cartoons of your mascots - we are a living, breathing people and we're not going anywhere.
A Tribe Called Red is coming to the end of their touring for 2016, only a few more dates in Canada. However, they'll be back on the road again in 2017 and if you have a chance check them out - they're amazing. If you're like me and we're hesitate about going to an electronic music party - don't - these guys are not your typical DJs and put on an amazing show.
As a final note I'd like to congratulate the venue, Stages Nightclub, and the promoter, Flying V Productions for putting on a show where everyone felt truly welcome. Everyone from the security staff to the bar people worked to create a safe environment. Very cool in these weird times.
(Article originally published at Blogcritics.org as Concert Review: A Tribe Called Red Kingston Ontario 12/14/16)
(Originally posted December 2016)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.