Lee Scratch Perry

Amy Buscemi, Writer

At 81 years old, Reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry took the house down during an epic North Side performance of over two hours of music on the evening of Oct. 27.  

New York City dub backup performers Subatomic Sound System played an enthusiastic dub intro for the concert. When Perry entered,  the seas of the sold-out room at the Beat Kitchen split to allow him to make his entrance through the crowd and up on to the stage where he performed well into the midnight hour.  

Dressed in a colonial style blazer jacket decorated with embroidered  badge with a heart on it, Perry’s eccentric didn’t end there as he also wore a flat brim hat and carried a microphone with a large gold-colored Egyptian ankh, a symbol meaning “life,” attached to it

He performed reggae songs with messages of love, unity, freedom, and peace to a packed audience diverse in age, ethnicity, and lifestyle.

Although there wasn’t much wiggle room at the sold-out venue,  attendee Meagan Panici of Rogers Park said, “It was totally worth dealing with the crowd and heat [to watch the performance].”

“Even though the room was uncomfortably packed at times, there was still a really great vibe coming from the audience that matched the vibe being given off on stage,” Panici said.

Subatomic Sound System is a New York City group lead by an artist that goes by EMCH, also known as Scientific, and is known for integrating 1970s Jamaican sound system culture and dub reggae studio techniques into current music genres.

When EMCH wasn’t mixing on stage with Perry, he was playing the melodica, a small keyboard-like instrument with a tube that is blown into to produce the effect.  

A saxophone player and a percussionist accompanied Perry in this Subatomic Sound System lineup as well.

Darcy Levy of Madhatter Promotions which helped to promote the event proclaims, “Lee Scratch Perry is the most  eccentric dub artist out of Jamaica that you’ll ever find!”

Hailing from Jamaica and hitting the peak of his career in the ‘70s,  Perry holds an important place in the history of reggae, producing acts as great as Bob Marley and the Wailers and creating reggae music of his own.  

He is known to have his own unique style and sound as he is held responsible by reggae gurus for shaping the sound of dub and taking it to experimental levels of no other. He also has a reputation for being an innovator of dub mixing.

A North Center resident and attendee of the show M.J. Skok said, “It was an honor and a privilege to get to see such a legendary performer so late in their life. I am grateful to have been able to go to this sold out show.”

Perry headlined Reggae Fest Chicago in 2016 and is currently playing live performances in the promotion of his latest release alongside Subatomic Sound System entitled “Super Ape Returns to Power.”