RAPID CITY, S.D. - In a masterstroke of music, Indigenous counted coup on nearly 7,000 all agers gathered at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center for the Black Hills' first-ever Bob Dylan concert.
The Native Nakota blues band was personally requested by Dylan to open at the Casper, Wyo., and Rapid City venues on his Lost Cities Tour. Beginning with the first stop, March 11 in San Luis Obispo, Calif., Texas blues band Asleep at the Wheel opened for Dylan, as the tour wound through California, Idaho, Washington and Montana. But what great good fortune befell both Indigenous and the audiences Dylan draws, that they were unable to make the March 26 and 27 dates.
Chairs were still to be filled at 7:30 p.m., when sparks of light and energy filled the darkened arena and lead guitarist Mato Najin (Standing Bear) plugged in. Backed by brother Ptehcaka Wicasa (Little Buffalo Man) on bass and sister Wanbdi Waste Win (Good Eagle Woman) on drums, in a burst of light the man called Horse (Tasunka) hammered his congas and the band's signature sound exploded on stage like a roll of thunder. Smoke rose up behind the four. That stage was on fire.
Driving, hard, electric blues is music you play loud. And loud it was, in fact a little too loud to appreciate the band's full-bodied blues vocals. This is one problem the band has had before. It seems that last summer at the Heritage Festival here there were problems with the sound. But so much more than just amps turned on this night's audience. Ignited by the band's stage presence and ascended by the sound, most on the ground floor were out of their chairs and on their feet in whirling dervish dance.
Starting out with "Got To Tell You," the message came across: This is one talented band of Indians. The sister and the only girl, Wanbdi, kept the group together on the drums. As strong and tight as she plays to the men, she must be reading minds. Her innate intuition, no doubt, makes for perfect time. Brother Pte's backup on guitar and vocals underscored bluesman Mato's heavy baritone in solos on "Now That You're Gone" and "Bring Back That Day." All three songs are from their last CD, "Things We Do."
And then there was Horse. The intense fervor apparent in this percussionist is raw and real. It's by his hands the audience feels what is essentially Indigenous and that was demonstrated in the band's finale: an orgasmic display of Mato's mastery of Hendrix-style guitar and Horse's amazing percussive blues shuffle. The only complaint this good night was that the music stopped too soon.
All elements being equal, the band encircles its audience in a wall of sound, and there's tremendous strength in that form. Talent? No doubt this group has talent, but they've also got strength in its basic structure. As life begets death, death begets life. From father to son, Indigenous draws on that circle of life.
The patriarch of the family, Greg Zephier, saw to it that his family received his gift of music. His spirit still inspires the band to heights the father probably might never have expected. Within a year of his death the band shares the stage with musicians the caliber of B.B. King and Bob Dylan. It's almost unbelievable how fast these relative newcomers have climbed to the very top of this genre. They just don't get any better than B.B. King or bigger than Bob Dylan.
Native to America, folk music belies rhythm and blues, rock ?n' roll and gospel hymns. Dylan's folk roots put all that together and found the words with which to speak for generations. Indigenous also finds a voice in Dylan's music. On its "Blues This Morning" CD, Indigenous recorded Dylan's "Million Miles" from his 1998 Grammy Award-winning "Time Out of Mind" album. Their newest CD "Circle" will be released May 9.
For more information on Indigenous, access its web site at www.IndigenousRocks.com
The band will appear: April 7 at the Arts & Science Auditorium, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo.; April 8 at Ben Reigel Auditorium, Mission, S.D.; April 9 at Chadron State College, Nelson Center, Chadron, Neb., and April 12 at Red Lake Casino, Red Lake, Minn.