Prince Paul, The Black Labels, and Prince Paul & The Black Labels were the three bands that played The Tap Room on Friday night (Jan. 21st). The evening took some hits of reggae, then a shot of surf guitar, and ended up in a bliss of music.
Prince Paul is a man and also a band. The band consists of Prince Paul singing, Lefty playing bass, Pat on guitar, Ryan on drums, and Rob and Janna on keyboards. They have been together for two months so the band members didn’t know each others last names yet... This was their first performance and it was a great one. They played straight reggae and Prince Paul performed some great hits.
When they were finished The Black Labels took the stage and the evening changed speeds. A surf guitar opened and dug up the roots of rock and the blues. Ben Marsen was playing a classic Fender Strat and surfing some electric licks on guitar from one wave to the next. It was sinister and people shook from side to side. The young crowd gathered in front of the stage while the real dancers, aged to perfection, moved in a seductive step in the back. There was something primal about the classics being unleashed, and the racing speed of the band lit up the night. The Black Labels are Northern Surf Music, with Mojo Mike and Fred Tyson interjecting like Announcer Lifeguards. This went on for some time until there was a break and the final band, Prince Paul & The Black Labels took the stage.
Prince Paul & The Black Labels consist of Ryan "Blue Suede" Lund (Drums), Ben Marsen and Gomez Mahlberg (Guitar), Matt Norby (Bass), Lefty Johnson (Trombone), Matt Livingston (Sax), Prince Paul, Mojo Mike, and Fred Tyson (Singers), and Dan Anderson (Keyboards). The music began as a reggae mix of funky music with a touch of The Doors. To college kids Prince Paul & The Black Labels would sound like Sublime or a far fetched No Doubt. To those who never watched Power Rangers with their blankey and cold cereal the band was Bob Marleyesque. It was some great reggae to dance to and the crowd was thoroughly entertained. I had a moment to talk to Ben Marsen in between sets and managed to get the band members names. He said that they don’t usually jam the surf blues, but it ended up being a highlight of the evening. We didn’t get to talk long as an eager fan was telling how she was going to get them a gig at Norm’s. Part of the business…
After the performance there was still the question of who was Prince Paul and why was he playing with this young surf guitar band? Maybe it was his 21st birthday on Wednesday? Maybe the mystery is half of what makes bands so great. With a clan of members this band can really play some funky reggae. Maybe they’ll be at Norm’s soon?