Show Review: Fantastic Negrito and The Guestlist Are Roots Rock Revival at the Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma

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Tuesday July 3rd brought Fantastic Negrito and The Guestlist to the Opolis for a humid, warm rock & roots revival of sorts. It was like going to church.

Situated in Norman, the Opolis is about 20 minutes south of Oklahoma City, in the shadows of the University of Oklahoma. As a college town, Norman set the perfect stage, as did the Opolis for the night’s activities. The evening kicked off well with a fabulous set from The Guestlist. A six piece band featuring Josh Moorehead on vocals and guitar, Tate Ignelzi on percussion, Cameron Wyman on bass, Zach Holcomb on keys, Eric Estrada on trumpet and Kyle Videtzki on sax, it’s a wonder they were all able to fit on the small stage. But fit they did, and proceeded to win over the building crowd rapidly. From Denver, The Guestlist brings a lot of sound.

Playing mostly songs from their newest release, Racing, Chasing, they made quite an impression on the Opolis crowd. With The Guestlist, it’s hard to pinpoint a genre. And, I for one don’t think that’s a bad thing. Bluesy and roots rock, tinged with the distinctive horns that add a funk and jazz feel. Maybe even a bit of jam band feel thrown in. After all, these guys are from Denver. Regardless, what they brought, the crowd really seemed to enjoy it. By the end of their set, the temperatures in the Opolis had risen significantly, as a testament to the energy the band brought.

Oh, but there was much more ahead. The evening’s headliner was one Xavier Dphrepaulezz and band, otherwise known as Fantastic Negrito. What happened next was nothing short of magical. Easily one of my favorite performances I’ve been fortunate to see this year, if not the absolute best. With a perfect blend of blues, rock, soul, gospel, poetry and a whole bunch of funkiness, Fantastic Negrito was equally Skip James, Ritchie Havens, Patti Smith, Chuck D and Mick Jagger all wrapped up in one. Backed by a stellar band featuring Tomas Salcedo on guitar, Fantastic Negrito proceeded to bring the pre-holiday crowd to a sweaty euphoria by the end of the performance.

Playing songs from both “Last Days of Oakland” and his most recent release, “Please Don’t Be Dead”, there was little time to catch your breath during the fourteen song set. A flamboyant, high energy performer, Dphrepaulezz is truly an artist. Proclaiming a “sasquatch lives through me” he launched the band into a memorable “Honest Man”. Fantastic Negrito’s performance gives you plenty to think about as well. Before launching into perhaps his best know song, “Lost In The Crowd”, the audience was presented with a question, “Whatever happened to the middle ground?” “I want to meet you in the middle ground”. And, “What is going on in America? Please don’t be dead…people are counting on us.” Powerful, memorable, carefully presented, and effective.

Other highlights were, “Rant Rushmore”, “A Boy Named Andrew” and a moving “In The Pines”, which Dphrepaulezz dedicated to his hometown of Oakland’s strong women that have to bury their children as a cost of gang violence. Despite a mostly captivated crowd, Dphrepaulezz had to address what many live music fans regrettably have deal with all too frequently…show talkers. Not one to mince words, Dphrepaulezz directed his admonishment directly to a loud group back near the bar. “I don’t come to your job and talk shit.”  Simple, yet effective. I wish more artists would address it head on like this.

The evening wound down with the sing-along favorite, “Bullshit Anthem” and another pair of favorites, “Plastic Hamburgers” and “The Duffler.”  Following the show, Dphrepaulezz, as well as The Guestlist made themselves available to meet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos at the merch table.

Simply put, it was an exhausting and memorable show for all involved. I can’t recommend seeing either band enough to do them justice, but I know I won’t miss either when they come back through.  Check out their music and tour dates here and here.

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