The Rude Boyz

9 February 2018, Common Room, Hastings
By Rosheen FitzGerald

What makes a great night out? Good company, the right music, a hospitable location and just enough of whatever you fancy, combined together in an alchemical compound that is more than the sum of its parts. Common Room has this science down to an art, as witnessed in its smooth transition from after-work dining and drinks to dance floor.

The Rude Boyz are a local outfit that attract a diverse local crowd, and the place is heaving with a steady flow to and from the garden bar. On paper, the punters are a hodge-podge cross-section of society with little in common – I dance alongside both children and parents of friends. But we are united by the One Love message that roots reggae preaches. The band’s mellow renditions of popular classics punctuated by the odd original, so laid back as to be practically supine, act as the perfect social lubricant, and the crowd is diffused into a magnanimous mass.

Several shortish sets are punctuated by the stylings of English DJ Olas Boss, aka Upsetter Sound System, playing the only New Zealand date on a world tour of his own making. He’s a veteran of gigs from Goa to Great Yarmouth, has a good repertoire and knows how to read a room, echoing the vibe of the band. His MC overtures – part hypeman, part commentary (toasting, it’s not) – perhaps de rigueur in the UK – does not fly with the Common Room crowd, and, to his credit, he observes and adapts, dispensing with it in later sets.

The Rude Boyz are assembled like a rock ensemble – lead, rhythm and bass guitars, keyboard and drums, with a second percussionist/vocalist to lend them reggae credentials and build up rich rhythms and harmonies. Their modus operandi is to hook the audience with a song they know and love, and, once they’re in a groove, to keep us there with an instrumental breakdown that shows an understanding of how people like to enjoy themselves.

There’s a heavy leaning on Bob Marley, as well as other classics such as Gregory Isaacs and Toots and the Maytals, but it’s the home grown hits, like Che Fu and Katchafire, that get the big responses from the crowd. They sing from a playbook that might be called Aotearoa Roots, or less charitably by some, BBQ Reggae. But like their contemporaries, Tomorrow People, they’re owning the label. Is it derivative? Sure. But I get the feeling that these guys are disinterested in pioneering a new musical field, they just want to play legitimately great music and chill out, as do their audience. We’re all here to kick back, and the objective is achieved with aplomb.


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