Reggae dancehall legend Barrington Levy blazed through Petaluma on Thursday night in classic dub train style. Barrington’s voice is sounding cleaner than ever and his form is looking fantastic as he approaches 50 years old. The show was part of the Road to California Roots Festival tour, a push towards spreading the word about the massive three-day event next May. There will be many more – look for J Boog and Los Rakas in January.
The house was packed at the Mystic Theater; a heady crowd leaning on the farther side of thirty and forty. Barrington paid court to his long time fans with studio-style versions of “My Time” and “Too Experienced”, letting them flow off the mic like he has played them for decades (he has). His encore of “Black Rose” hushed the crowd until everyone started singing along. But the real depth of his performance was in the heavy duty b-side takes on lesser known tracks like “A Ya We Deh” and “Bounty Hunter”.
Holding the decks was WBLK selector Jacques Powell-Wilson, founder of Monday Night Edutainment at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol. The sound system is rounding out 12 years as the North Bay’s longest running reggae genre night. Jacques brought down some of his massive collection of vinyl rarities including the Meditations’ “Stranger In Love” and Dennis Brown’s “Come Home With Me”. If you can dig it, WBLK is hosting their first in a series of all-vinyl appreciation nights starting December 9th with Ras Gilbert of Shashamani Sound.
Opening for Barrington was former Sonoma County, now Santa Cruz transplant, band Thrive. The group recently joined forces with California Roots Festival organizers and have been touring the country spreading sunny, post-Sublime positive reggae, which they have now infused with RnB pop. I see them shying away from their reggae-rock roots in the coming months, but we’ll see where they take their sound come festival season.
I gotta say this: The Mystic Theater hasn’t seen this much smoke in years. Ever since management started really cracking down on puffing inside the venue, Petaluma’s reggae scene hasn’t been the same. Undercover goons jam their way through the crowds, flashlights scanning for joints, grabbing hold of skinny hippies and short frat dudes with their menacing stares that promise, “try that again, so I can haul your ass out in front of everyone”. But it’s no fun when the homies can’t have none… Thankfully, Thursday was a chill alternative to the type of muscle attitude we’ve gotten used to at Sonoma County shows. Probably because the show was too expensive for the college kids to raid. Although many of them could have benefited from knowing the roots of where their beloved Cali Roots Rock comes from.
On another note: Rather than releasing full albums of new material, Barrington seems to be focusing on recent collaborations with newer generations of established artists, namely JadaKiss and Vybz Kartel, Kardinal and Busta Rhymes. Check this made-for-MTV Jams 2010 release “No War” featuring Kardinal. The original features Busta Rhymes and quotes President Obama’s inaugural speech.
It is hard to put into words what a five day reggae festival in Humboldt County feels like. Senses are heightened and spirits are elevated. The whole experience feels like a time warp, traveling with fellow festivalites to a sacred place deep in the woods, away from the daily grind and the drama of the outside world. It feels like warm sunshine. It smells like homegrown herbs. It tastes a lot like lukewarm coconut water. But more than words can offer, it feels like what Sunday headliners, Morgan Heritage’s, soundtrack tune ‘Down By The River’ sounds like.
Reggae On The River has been called ‘Reggae’ for as long as anyone can remember. It is considered, by and large, the first reggae festival in the United States, and a lion’s share of the genre’s most famous artists have graced its stage over the last 29 years. Tribulations aside (read up on the Mateel controversy here), ‘Reggae’ has always been at the heart of the international festival scene. The “one-blood” mantra of the event was undeniably reflected in this year’s 6,000 multicultural fans who traveled across the miles to celebrate the French’s Camp homecoming. With nearly 2,500 volunteers and staff on hand to ensure the event went off without a glitch, the party was a huge success and was entirely sold out by Saturday afternoon.
The smaller crowds made for a more chill experience – if you went to any of the Reggae’s between 2003 and 2006 you know what 25,000 people in the bowl feels like. Although rumors are floating around that the Mateel Community Center will be offering 8,000 tickets next year as opposed to 6,000 this year, the intentionally scaled-down event has become safer and more conscientious. The artists were more militant than flashy, the crowds more hippie than street. A big factor in this year’s attitude was the multigenerational audience. There were a lot of older festival veterans and a lot of little kids, and inevitably, more people were smoking ganja in the sunshine than running around on Molly at 5am.
If you didn’t make the journey, or just want to reminisce, you can tune into the audio archives from Humboldt County’s KMUD radio here. (Scroll down to August 2-4 for the live broadcast) Chill to the tunes by the river and check out some of these amazing shots of the event by some very cool Bay Area photographers (many thanks to James LeDeau, Joe Wilson, and Anthony Postman).
It is becoming a decompression tradition to see Jane’s Addiction play Reno after Burning Man. Promoter Fresh Bakin’ has a talent for timing awesome parties. Last year, the band performed a sold out show following the ‘Burn’ and people were dressed to the nines in costumes still dusty from the Playa. This year, the show happened a week later so fewer Burners were still in town. And while a scant few could be picked out of the crowd, the sensation of settling back into the world was already in full effect.
Inside the glitz and glam of the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, the Grand Theater is one of the largest showroom stages in the world. Tiered half-moon booths are lined with faux leather and floral upholstery and giant crystal chandeliers hang from 30 foot ceilings. With about ¾ of the venue filled, the venue was far from small but felt relatively intimate.
The band came on just before 10pm, opening with “Underground”, “Mountain Song” and “Just Because” before frontman Perry Farrell finally addressed the crowd. “You remember? Because I do! We were here the same exact time last year. I remember you!” He was dress in floral print and tuxedo pants that fell just above the ankles. It’s become a signature look for him, exposing a super tight washboard stomach. Farrell looks way healthier now than he did 20 years ago.
The greatest rock moment of recent memory has got to be Perry Farrell chugging a bottle of über-expensive Napa Valley wine on stage at BottleRock last May. His boozed-up theatrics shifted between social welfare rants and parading the stage with two talented, uummm, dancers. Aside from a few more shades of grey, Farrell, Dave Navarro and drummer Stephan Perkins, still look awesome. It’s been 25 years since Nothing’s Shocking (1988) and under those same power chords, their sound still flaunts Farrell’s ethereal voice over heady guitar breakdowns.
It is the weekend after Labor Day. Take advantage of the deserted tourist destinations and cruise up to Tahoe. Jane’s is playing in Reno at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino on Monday, September 9th.
Even though the Casino seats 1,800, it wouldn’t be too far off to expect an intimate showcase. Jane’s Addiction has spent the summer touring with the Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival, sharing the bill with Alice In Chains and 11 other dark-alt-rock bands. But Alice won’t be appearing in Reno. The Casino gig is just a quick layover before the festival hits the Shoreline Amphitheater next Wednesday. (tickets here)
Check out their newest single, released this summer, vamping up the creepiness of online dating.
Petaluma’s 2013 Rivertown Revival is slated to be its biggest party yet. Part music festival, part small town showdown, the festivities include zany art boat races, fancy old-timey costumes, and a huge array of local food purveyors to match. You can read up on the history of the event in our 2010 Bohemian feature article here.
The live music offerings include some of Sonoma County’s best talent, including 2013 Bohemian Nor Bay Award winners The Highway Poets (best rock band), Frankie Boots & the County Line (best country/Americana band), and a whole slew of nominees who are equally deserving of winning best band. Check them all out for yourself this Saturday with late-night after parties spilling into local restaurants and music venues.
The Rivertown Revival is this Saturday, July 20th from 11am-8pm, $5, babies free. Steamer Landing Park, 6 Copeland Street, Petaluma. no phone.
Sierra Nevada World Music Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary June 21st-23rd at the Mendocino Fairgrounds in Booneville. What an incredible party! Under the brilliance of a perigee full moon or “super moon“, at least 36 bands and countless artists performed during this year’s summer solstice festival. Check out these photos from the festival courtesy of Bulldog Media out of Windsor.
After several times trying to connect with Santa Cruz reggae rockers, Thrive, I had all but given up on our scheduled interview. It was Day 2 of Cali Roots and text messages aside, I figured there wasn’t much hope linking up with all the activity going on. Until that is, I ran into lead singer Aaron Borowitz hanging out backstage covered in a bunch of ladies.
Thrive has performed at every California Roots Music & Arts Festival since it’s inception. They have been representing their adopted Santa Cruz and now managed by festival co-producer Dan Sheehan, the band is touring non-stop. Thrive just dropped their new album Relentless, so I wanted to find out what its been like on the road.
Bohemian: Tell me about Cali Roots, are you enjoying yourself?
A.B.: Everyone has been really nice and everywhere I go people are smiling back at me.
How did you feel about your show?
Oh man, it was so awesome. That was one of the funnest shows I’ve ever played, personally. Not necessarily the musicality of it, but the vibe in the crowd.
Did you see a difference within the crowd? There are a lot of people up here from So Cal.
Yea, I see a difference in the people, but I see a connection in the message. It’s positive and everyone just wants to chill, no bad vibes, no fighting.
San Diego reggae band Tribal Seeds are rising stars in the landscape of California roots music. They have sharp, inspiring verses, solid stage presence, and vocals that melt. Both lead singers, Steven Jacobo and newly added E.N. Young, have that hypnotic, echoing vocal style similar to Harrison Stafford of Groundation.
With so many one-dimensional skank rhythms tying up the airwaves, it’s refreshing to hear a band that embraces melodic bass lines and off-the-wall keys. E.N. Young’s melodica performances practically steal the show. As was the case at California Roots Music & Arts Festival along with bringing up Rebelution’s lead singer, Eric Rachmany, Adam Taylor from Iration, and Kyle McDonald, singer/guitarist for Slightly Stoopid to sing “Vampire”, all while smokin’ a giant spliff.
Tribal Seeds are touring nationally with Slightly Stoopid and Atmosphere this summer. They play the Greek Theater in Berkeley July 19th.
Ever heard of Bulldog Media from Windsor? You have now – and you’ll most likely hear a lot more of them in the coming year. With 15 Bulldog Media crew members at Cali Roots Fest 2013, they were by far the most influential media presence on the ground. Check this Day 2 compilation video from five different “Bulldog” angles during Tribal Seeds’ “Vampire”.
Sonic Bloom members, lyricist Spends Quality (nee Spencer Williams) and saxophonist-turned-vocalist J. Kendall dropped new three albums on Williams’ independent label CFO Recordings in April, and they are hosting an official SoCo album release party at Hopmonk Sebastopol this Friday night. You can read about it this week’s Bohemian.
There are three more music videos in the works, but check this brand new vid from Time Piece‘s title track. Filmed under the Redwoods and out along the coast, you can’t get much truer to Sonoma County than this. Represent.
CFO Recordings triple album release party is this Friday, June 7, at Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $10–$15. 707.829.7300