Need to shake of the last of the winter doldrums? I’ve got just the band – and show – for you.
Maine-based Zeme Libre is back with a brand new album called “War on the One,” and you can shake your groove thing down at the Portland House of Music to their Afrobeat, reggae, ska and funk tunes. “War” is a follow-up to last year’s seven-song “NEA99942,” and they’ve followed in their own fantastic footsteps with this collection of 11 tunes.
Zeme Libre is lead singer Andrew Yankowsky, Phil Mantis on bass, Tim Washburn on guitar and vocals, David Butts on keys, horns and vocals and drummers Chris Sweet and Andy Porta, who share percussion duties depending on schedules. These guys come from all over the U.S. and through the years have shared stages with Michael Franti and Spearhead, Toots and the Maytals, Black Uhuru, Wyclef Jean, The English Beat, De La Soul, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and several other like-minded acts.
They formed in the spring of 2015, and their first show was opening for The English Beat in May of that year. Not a bad way to make your debut. In fact, I was at that show and can verify that they crushed it.
“War on the One” opens with the title track, and you’re greeted with funky keys, drums, electric guitar, bass and horns in rapid succession before the vocals arrive. “Hold on, hold on, take your last breath” is repeated many times over the course of the five-minute romp that you’ll be singing along to by the mid-point. It’s fierce yet fun with a whole mess of sounds going off in various directions.
“Hambre,” which is the Spanish word for hungry, features guests Scott Elliot on mandolin, vocalist Vanessa Lauren and drummer Chris Sweet. In an email, the band told me the song has a world-beat groove, and after giving it a spin, they’ll get no argument from me. Said another way, the song is four-and-a-half minutes of swirling keys, crashing drums and funky electric grooves set atop lyrics that are politically charged yet positive and hopeful. “One foot in the crowd, one on the ground/No need to see, what they’re running from.”
Take a listen to “Hambre”
My current favorite is “The Thing” which, at just under six minutes long, features the organ, flute and a few other sounds I’m not quite sure of but are all essential ingredients to the song. It’s not possible to sit still to this one. I tried it in my car and at my desk and only lasted a minute before various forms of moving, snapping and head-bopping happened on their own accord. “Break it down, feel it, feel it, feel it now,” instructs Yankowsky, and these are orders you’ll be happy to follow, especially when they play this one live on Saturday night. Don’t be the one in the corner with your head in your phone; hit the dance floor and show the world your moves.
Here’s a live version of “The Thing”
The band told me they’d have copies of “War on the One” for sale at the show, or you can pick up at a copy at zemelibre.com, where you’ll find their other releases as well, along with two super cool T-shirts. Their music can also be found on iTunes and Bandcamp.
And don’t worry about pulling a muscle while dancing, Gorilla Finger Dub will get you all warmed up with their opening reggae set. The same goes for Hambone and their soul-fusion tunes.
9 p.m. Saturday. Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland, $8 in advance, $10 day of show, 21-plus. portlandhouseofmusic.com