Straddling the Jam Divide: Toubab Krewe at Cervantes'

November 14 2008, 3:16 PM
Colorado's jam band polarization is extreme. Here, you are all but forced to take sides: You're either a jam band fan or you aren't. It's an unnecessary barricade that prematurely closes otherwise adventurous ears. Besides a national cultural stereotype that sees the jam band crowd as naive youth in flower-power costumes, the reason for our Rocky Mountain divide also lies in the jam band domination of our music venue marquees. There are simply too many, leading some would-be listeners to quickly define themselves against the genre. As a result, the anti-jam faction misses out on some really great bands. Ashville, North Carolina-based Toubab Krewe shouldn't be one of those groups.  Toubab Krewe, like American Afro-beat torchbearers Antibalas and, more recently, Albino!, find an invigorating balance between West African staples and infectious grooves. But where the others have focused almost exclusively on Fela Kuti's legacy, Toubab Krewe incorporates regional African instrumentation that the band members have studied on various trips to Mali, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. Without sounding kitschy or forced, the Krewe mixes traditional African instruments--the harp-like kamelengoni and the djembe (hand drum), for example--with rock and roll tools: the guitar, bass, and drum set. Their solos are purposeful and well placed, and their musical discipline steers clear of the free-form, borderline sloppiness that turns some listeners off from jam music. While Colorado's jammy circuit welcomes Toubab Krewe, they've been praised in the Village Voice and The New York Times, publications not easily swayed by Jerry Garcia worship. So, if the local cultural climate has driven you so far from improvisational electric music that you can't even look at those Allman Brothers albums you loved in high school anymore, take a deep breath for god's sake, and check out Toubab Krewe. Unplug your hippie-dar, brave soul. Do not be afraid. Sat. 9 p.m. Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton St., $15. 303-279-1772