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Concert review: Pablo and the Hemphill 7

Pablo and the Hemphill 7

Jan. 29, Lola's Saloon

Posted 11:15am on Wednesday, Feb. 02, 2011

Last weekend there was good music to be had seemingly everywhere, but in addition to pre-Super Bowl hoopla and the Fat Stock Show, FM 88.7's Tony Diaz and Tom Urquhart brought their Good Show Live Music Series to Lola's Saloon on Saturday. No place would I rather be.

Normally, upon breaching the perimeter of Lola's, I find myself searching for a vacant table back near the sound booth to sit, listen to the band and people-watch. But Lola's just installed a little short counter jutting into the room from the center of the sound booth, and I snagged a choice stool there. It's the perfect place to listen to, well, apparently, a DJ.

Yep, we started off the "Live" music show with DJ Data Bass spinning records. Now, I have nothing against DJs -- OK, I do, but this was supposed to be live music. The crowd seemed to like it though, and more importantly, after a short period of time, an Austin-based band called the Raspas got up and kicked out some serious reggae (and even a little ska). Most shows, these guys would have been headlining, but Tom and Tony hit it out of the park this time. To close out the night we're talkin' about the legendary Pablo and the Hemphill 7.

A decade ago, these guys saw a need for a Fort Worth reggae band and they jumped in to fill the void. Pablo consists of frontman Joe Vano (vocals), Steffin Ratliff (guitar, vocals), Damien Stewart (drums), Jonathan Irwin (percussion) and Matt Hembree (bass). Conspicuously absent was keyboardist Justin Pate, who is busy touring with Ben Harper down in Brazil.

"I like some of the concepts of the Rastafarian lifestyle," said Vano, "I like the 'no processed foods,' I like that they're vegetarians, I think it's healthy living. I don't necessarily adhere to the religious beliefs, the whole Haile Selassie is the son of God."

Although they did do some excellent covers by Peter Tosh and Bob Marley (ending up the night with Marley's No Woman No Cry), the rest of the music was original. Vano writes the words.

The music was tight and yet flowing. It's hard to feel beat-down listening to great reggae, and this was great reggae with a bit of a rock 'n' roll punch to it. When they tried to end the show, the crowd demanded another song despite closing time.

On Feb. 5, Pablo and the Hemphill 7 will be playing at the Flying Saucer in downtown Fort Worth, so if you have the backbone to brave the downtown Super Bowl crowds do try to make it. For more info on Pablo and Co., check out www.myspace.com/pabloandthehemphill7.

For more on the Raspas, check out www.myspace.com/theraspas.

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