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The Collective universe in just one bite

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Who: The Wassabi Collective

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Tuesday, Nov. 25

Tickets: $15

Wasabi is a green Japanese horseradish paste. But with their ethnic percussion, ethereal vocals, body painting, firedancing, and themes of peace and global consciousness, Victoria-based worldbeat troupe The Wassabi Collective invoke something far more exotic than the ketchup of the sushi bar.

There must be another meaning to the word, a Swahili or Xhosa, or Ouagadougouan definition befitting the tribal rhythms and sultry beats.

But there isn’t. The Wassabi Collective is indeed named after Japanese wasabi, confirms vocalist/percussionist Melissa Meretsky.

"Wasabi’s an interesting buzz when you take a lot of it on a piece of sushi," she elaborates. "It’s that hot feeling, and then it goes away. And we do that in our music. We’ll just be really crazy and then, boom, drop down, really chill."

The Collective universe explained in just one bite.

It’s somehow very right. A Wassabi Collective event is visceral, more akin to the sensation of biting into a piece of unagi than sitting in a seat watching a musical performance. Firedancing troupe Elemental often accompanies them. Costumes and body paint are extended not just to the band and their entourage, but to the audience as well. Prepare to not just witness the sound and visual spectacle but to be a part of it.

"We’re just having so much fun that you can visually see it," says Meretsky. "Tell the people to get dressed up. Feel free to express yourselves with costumes, or face paint. I do topless body painting so I’ll have some girls in character and basically they wear a skirt and then I paint their whole upper body and glue feathers on them."

The music is the yin to the visual yang at a Wassabi Collective experience. Whistlerites who caught their last show back in March may be surprised to see the current lineup is down to just four essential members: Meretsky, Scott Milne on bass, Stephen Moore on drums and new addition Gisto on guitar.

"The sound has changed a lot but what also has changed is our ability to rise up higher when we’re playing," says Meretsky, adding that Gisto’s reggae roots are influencing the Collective to add more "happy reggae" grooves.

With the addition of a drum machine to the percussion quiver they’re also dipping their toes into the electronica pool, fitting considering their Whistler show is a presentation of Tuesday’s regular jungle ’n’ breaks club night.

"We have the world beat sound but we’ve really tapped in to electronica’s really spacey sounds," says Meretsky. "It’s organic drum ’n’ bass."

New fans hoping to bring a piece of the eclectic sound home are out of luck. The band’s live CD The Masquerade Sessions, released in 2002, is completely sold out, however the current Collective is in the midst of producing Masquerade Sessions II, a compilation of live recordings from their regular Sunday night gig at Lucky Bar in their hometown.

Be patient, let it flow, because with The Wassabi Collective, things happen as they should, naturally.

"The love, the balance, the respect, being able to communicate offstage and onstage. I’m in the healthiest environment right now," says Meretsky convincingly. "And it’s affecting the music. It’s making us all feel better about ourselves and we give that to the crowd. It’s so intense when something feels so right."

Catch The Wassabi Collective at Tuesday’s Jungle ’n’ Breaks night at Garfinkel’s. Local DJ Toddski and Vancouver’s DJ OJ spin opening sets. Tickets $15 at the door.

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