Sensory Overload: Shrub

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Normally, I despise music like this.

I think Slightly Stoopid is an understatement. The idea of attending a Kottonmouth Kings koncert makes me nauseous. I considered 311 kind of lame even back when I was rocking Sublime singles while finishing my ninth-grade math homework.

Thus, the prospect of reviewing a show by a local reggae-rap-rock combo named after marijuana wasn't particularly exciting to me. Against all odds, though, Shrub won me over.

One of the more impressive feats in music is to convert somebody so staunchly opposed to your key influences. Sure enough, last Wednesday at The Basement I found myself highly impressed with this cannabis-obsessed crew. Turns out High Times magazine was onto something when it honored Shrub as an "unsigned band of the month" last year.

Shrub has sharpened every aspect of their sound to an impressive degree. The background harmonies were the slickest I've ever heard from a local band, and keyboardist T-Farms let 'er rip with authority on his lead vocal spotlight. The rhythm section (with five-string bass, of course) was fully locked in.

Even guitarist Dillinger, boasting a mohawk and ultra-corny behavior on stage - Guitar behind the head! Guitar as machine gun! - brought some incredibly adept playing to the table. And from a songwriting standpoint, I was happy to hear them never letting any song outstay its welcome.

As for lead rapper and band namesake Shrub, a.k.a. Jay Shawberry, he delivered his rhymes with such poise and charisma that I didn't mind when he awkwardly adjusted the lyrics of Jay-Z's "99 Problems," mashed up effectively with Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," to fit a white guy's perspective.

Furthermore, he contributed to those seriously striking vocal harmonies on the ballad "Cherries," which successfully casts a melancholy-but-hopeful mood in spite of its hokey lyrics ("If life is a big bowl of cherries, tell me what I'm doing here, stuck in the pits?").

Those inclined toward Shrub's style of music ought to see them in concert as soon as possible. They're legitimate pros at this stuff. But even those who don't know the difference between Badfish and Sublime With Rome - and those who wish they didn't- might find something to like.