LA Living: Island Rhythms Steel Drum Band @ 7th & Fig

 

Arts Brookfield is sponsoring a “Summer at the Plaza” Series that hosts FREE concerts every Wednesday at noon in the “7th at Fig” plaza in Downtown LA. Please check out their website and schedule your summer accordingly!!

My brothers and I arrived at the plaza to find a huge construction site. A stage was nowhere in sight and we looked around wondering if the concert was still happening. A lady directed us up the stairs and as soon as I saw the food trucks and green banners, my excitement returned. I related the temporary confusion to how I would have to approach the LA Arts community that I’m still getting used to.

According to the website the concert was scheduled to begin at 12:00pm. The banners on each side of the small stage, however, displayed 12:30pm as the starting time. I took to Twitter to rant about my frustration, as it was 11:40am and we would have nothing to dance to for another 50 minutes. The sound check began before I could publish my angry tweet and when the lead vocalist said, “We’ll be back in 15 minutes,” I retracted my premature anger and reallocated my approval to the concert committee. (Haha. Ridiculous, I know.)

The concert started promptly at 12pm, as planned, and with the first beat of the drum, my head jerked uncontrollably and a huge grin took over my face. In that moment all I could think about was how good of a review I would write for this band and this initiative.

As I squirmed in my seat wishing that I could take them with me to Hawaii in August, I couldn’t help but notice the other listeners around me. The stage was set up in a small plaza in between sky high buildings, including Ernst & Young and many other companies I’ve never heard of. Employees dressed in pale blue and black dress shirts stood unbelievably still in line at the food trucks, surprised to see a man with butt-long dreads rocking out on stage.

It was easy to tell who had come to see the band and who had come to escape their cubicle for a depressingly quick bite to eat. Most of them fought the urge to set their hips loose. Some settled for a subtle bob of the head, while others just stared. I was happy to see one businessman grant himself the right to move in line while waiting for his food.

I wondered how anyone hearing the same sounds as me could dare not do anything about it. It was taking everything in me to NOT run up to the stage and lose all control. The only reason I settled for dancing in my chair (for the first 30 min. anyway) was out of consideration for my brothers, who didn’t want to be even more embarrassed by their groovy sister.

The low energy in the plaza was unbearable. The band was doing everything right, but the audience simply wasn’t present. This became clear when the band cut a song short in hopes that we would complete the last line. I lowered my head when only two people, my brother being one of them, finished the song with the anticipated line, “every little thing is gonna be alright.” “Well, somebody’s listening,” the lead singer responded. I felt bad. I imagined how hard it must be to perform to a dead crowd.

For the majority of the set I had no idea what he was singing about. I could only make out the chorus of most songs, if I was lucky, but I honestly didn’t care to know what he was saying. The electric keyboard and steady drum beat dominated conversation.

When the familiar bass line of one of my favorite jams, “Welcome to Jamrock” began, I finally convinced my brother to get up and dance with me. We broke the stifling stillness with our ridiculous moves. I felt alive. And through our freedom, we liberated others. After we took our seats people finally started to gravitate towards the stage and dance provocatively.

In a perfect segue into what I thought was the end of the set, he started chanting “Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up! Don’t give up the fight.”

He broke into an unintelligible rap and his gibberish reinforced the inability of everyone to understand that by remaining still, they were denying themselves the freedom that every human is entitled to.

He was singing to the corporate robots hot wired to their surprisingly comfortable metal chairs. To the executives secretly listening from their offices. To the people who were too concerned with others’ silent opinions to dance. And to me, for waiting 30 whole minutes before doing what I came to do.

A smiling man in an electric wheelchair. An overweight autistic woman and her dancing partner. A big-bottomed woman in a cheap red dress. A shoeless man in suffocating biker gear. We were all gathered today for one purpose: to live.

THANK YOU to Arts Brookfield for sponsoring this much needed event! Thank you to the Island Rhythms Steel Drum Band for performing whole heartedly for a full hour, and then some! And thank YOU for reliving this experience with me!

Check out my recap video below:

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