The word in town surrounding tonight’s show has held my firm interest for months, as Tinariwen offer the appeal of the unique and the exotic. Upon entering Urban Lounge, I have slight concerns that the gig may be subject to a low attendance, but the night is still young, and throughout JJUUJJUU’s setup, the curious hip types of Salt Lake are still filing in. This audience represents a broad age range with open minds.
When JJUUJJUU take the stage, I notice that on the drums is Lionel (Vinyl) Williams, so whatever this group puts out, it‘ll be interesting at the very least. JJUUJJUU can be defined by the heavy, distorted hum of reverb carried on by a pounding beat, which produces a semi-overwhelming psychedelic wall of sound that envelops the venue. This consistent repetition builds and expands the consciousness. Though this method is not unique, it is certainly good and a great way to get lost on the vibrations of something solidly provoking. It is style that wonderfully blends garage-psych rock n’ roll with an up-tempo and disembodied aura that has the effect of being totally engaging. Through this, JJUUJJUU keep their audience interested and draws the keen curiosity of those still filling in.
The stage’s dark-green lights illuminate JJUUJJUU’s performance. Even with a noticeable break in between one of the numbers, there is little trouble returning to the state of the vibrant and heavy energy of the performance—which remains consistent throughout the rest of the act. The crowd shows their appreciation at the end of each song, and with that, I’d be surprised if the masses didn’t mobilize for their return on Oct. 24 at Kilby Court.
The wait for tonight’s anticipated act—the Grammy-Award winning Tuareg group from Kidal in Northern Mali, Tinariwen—is not long. In fact, it takes only a few minutes for them to set up, and my attempt to score some French fries from Rye is for naught. Tinariwen draws their audience in with a chant in Tamasheq—their indigenous language, in which they sing all of their songs. They are dressed in traditional Tuareg clothing—head scarves and bright colored robes.
During each song, they calmly dance to each melody played and sometimes provoke their audience to participate by clapping or moving in a certain way to particular tunes. Their movements are unassuming, sincere and joyfully graceful. They actually enjoy what they are doing and are not weighed down by false pretension. Rather, Tinariwen seem to be free to just exist in state of pure blissful happiness, and that is rare thing to find in a sea of Western cynicism. To bear witness to this is an honor and inspiration. Their sound is defined by a signature mix of bluesy folk and psychedelic rock n’ roll that has a strangely addictive feel unlike anything else I have heard before. It is uplifting and soothingly soulful, and provides a transformative experience that is simply everything beautiful.
If I had to sum Tinariwen up from witnessing their performance, I would have to say theirs is a sound that describes and complements the word “beauty” perfectly. Just standing in the back, I am mesmerized by how they perform each number—effortlessly, and with an unending exuberance of joy. The audience receives that joy with admiration and appreciation. It is all of this that makes Tinariwen’s music infectious and absolutely wonderful. Their performance is an intense thing to behold, and even though I am well toward the back of the venue, I am caught up by its majestic aura and almost moved to tears by its beauty.
Tinariwen’s performance is simply solid, but even with the encore—which is fantastic in its continuation of the energy from the entire act—the effect of the their conclusion is like coming off of something powerful and leaves the captive listener in stunned state. This is the result of having your soul enveloped in all that is wonderful and then needing time to regroup into a fuller being. Tinariwen’s sound is instantly recognizable as something that translates the purity of music for anyone to understand. Simply put, it is the language of love, and that, my friends, is something that transcends the falsities of borders or restrictions of the idea of national identity.
With all this said, the reader of this article can be certain that after removing myself from being the journalistic fly on the wall, that yours truly broke the fourth wall and got a Tinariwen record. It will find a comfortable place on my turntable on a constant spin. So next time these cool cats come to town, don’t just read about it, be sure to check them out—it’s a performance unlike any other and must see for any true rock n’ roller. Can you dig it?