Sunday, October 16, 2011

A night with Bob Gruen and The Aggrolites

photo by Jeff Ross

Legendary rock music photographer Bob Gruen launched his new book, Rock Seen, with an exhibition of some of his best known shots at Toronto's Liss Gallery on Saturday evening.

I interviewed Gruen a few weeks before his 2008 show at the same gallery and spoke to him briefly again in between admiring his work, chatting with friends, munching on pizza and enjoying cocktails named after the New York Dolls and Iggy & The Stooges.

If you're a fan of John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Blondie, Elton John, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen and other music icons, you'll want to get to Liss' Yorkville Avenue gallery to see Gruen's work.

After post-exhibit drinks with a couple of friends, I headed west to Lee's Palace. I walked in to hear New Hampshire reggae band Roots of Creation covering Elvis Costello's "Watching The Detectives." It was a good start, and the band's original roots reggae material was certainly palatable — if not exceptional.

The Aggrolites came on stage for their headlining set of "dirty reggae," which mixes reggae, ska, soul and rock steady. There were a couple of different members in the all black-clad quintet since the last time I saw it, and the performance lacked some of the vitality of earlier shows I'd seen the Los Angeles band play, but the group definitely has musical chops and knows how to entertain a crowd.

Singer Jesse Wagner had an injured finger and wasn't able to play guitar, which didn't help things. But there were still a number of highlights, including a cover of The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "Complicated Girl" from the group's recent series of 45s, "Banana" (which it previously performed on children's television show Yo Gabba Gabba!), "Someday," "Free Time," "Mr. Misery" and "Dirty Reggae." The 65-minute set was followed by an encore that ended things on a positive note with "Countryman Fiddle" and a cover of The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down."


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