The Very Best
You Cannot Resist the Sexy Malawi Dance Party!
A sunny trip into the warm heart of Africa
I was groped about five times during The Very Best show at the Beauty Bar. Not sure what it is about the band’s music — it’s been described as an Afro-Western mix of dance, hip-hop, pop and the traditional music of Malawi — that makes the normally disaffected and/or wall-hugging audiophiles randy, but there certainly was something in the air.
And by “something in the air,” I am referring to something less tangible than the massive, eye-watering cloud of pot smoke that basically got me second-hand stoned.
Let’s just say that The Very Best knows how to work a crowd.
The Very Best is a collaboration between Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya, who sings in his native Chichewa, and the London-based Swedish (Johan Karlberg) and French (Etienne Tron) production duo Radioclit. I must mention here that the very Scandanavian Karlberg came on stage decked out in layers and layers of traditional African clothing…not sure what he was going for, but he looked hilarious.
Anyway, The Very Best seem to have figured out the perfect formula for bringing traditional Malawi to the American masses: sample hits from big name indie bands like Yeasayer (“Ambling Alps”) and cross-over sensations like M.I.A. (“Paper Planes”) so the hipsters know how to program your new sound into their iPods.
In fact, the show opened with the all-too-familiar onomotopoeic gunshots and ka-ching of “All I wanna do is…” and the crowd went ape sh*t. But saying that The Very Best fall back on familiar samples to create catchy tunes is wrong. The majority of their library is ripe with original beats and very strong Malawian influences including non-stop steel drum samples.
In order to emphasize the tropical, laid-back good time the guys decided to bring out several cheap, blow-up plastic palm trees and two back up dancers! Again, the stoned out of their minds crowd went wild.
The Beauty Bar show also featured guest rapper who became very fond of crowd surfing as the night went on.
This was not a show for anyone who wants to be an invisible onlooker. Mwamwaya wants you to have fun. And he’s willing to make you slightly uncomfortable in order to get you started on that path. During the last song of the night he grabbed random people and yanked them up onto the stage. They looked bewildered at first, but by the last few beats, there were dozens of crazed hip-shakers threatening to push the actual band off the stage.
It all ended too soon. Maybe we were all smiling so widely because we’d literally been inhaling something, but the dance-party good vibes left everyone cocooned in a warm and tingly glow.
At least until some random a$$hole shook up a beer and threw its contents out over the audience like a bucket of cold water. Um, wrong show dude. The Motley Crue post-reunion concert is somewhere else.
– Molly Wardlaw
Photo Credit: MTV Iggy