Reggae in Raleigh

This music genre is “bringing only good vibes” to fans.

By Jennifer Heinser

 Stick figure, complete with cocoa, posing and supervising the crowd. Photo by Keith Zacharski/In The Barrel

Stick figure, complete with cocoa, posing and supervising the crowd.
Photo by Keith Zacharski/In The Barrel

If someone asked you to attend a reggae concert, you might think, “There’s a current, American reggae scene?” I had this thought eight years ago, when my friend—who hails from southern California—was shocked to learn that I was unaware of the band Slightly Stoopid. I giggled at the name, but later that day I started an internet radio station on Spotify based on the band.
    I was hooked. Not just hooked on Slightly Stoopid, which began in the days of Sublime, but they became my “gateway band,” if you will, to everything else that came after them. (Worth mentioning here are reggae fans—a breed unto themselves!) My ticket stub collection contains memories from shows spanning rock and metal to rap and reggae. And by far, there is nothing like the reggae crowd. Fellow fans don’t mind saving your spot if you need to run for a beer, or to the bathroom between sets. The fan page groups on Facebook send each other mail to encourage and uplift each other—bumper stickers, bracelets, artwork, etc. After one family had a rough year, members of their fan group chipped in and donated a tree to be delivered to their home and planted in their yard from “The Family.”
    

 dirty headsfront men jared Watson (“dirty J”) and dustin bushnell (“Duddy B”) on mics.. Photo by Keith Zacharski/In The Barrel

dirty headsfront men jared Watson (“dirty J”) and dustin bushnell (“Duddy B”) on mics..
Photo by Keith Zacharski/In The Barrel

 Dirty heads. Photo by Ashley Kidwell

Dirty heads.
Photo by Ashley Kidwell

On Valentine’s Day, I came home to a package of band stickers, a bracelet, and a handwritten note. After hundreds of concerts in venues from bars to arenas, bands like Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Stick Figure, Dirty Heads, and more know what a great support structure they have. They are super-connected to the fans through social media, actively engaged in fan pages, and most even have songs that are odes to their fan base. Other bands worth the trip to your local venue
include Iration, The Green, Hirie, Tribal Seeds, The Expendables, Soja, and J Boog.
    For me, Rebelution became a favorite right away—with their intense bass line thanks to Marley Williams, and inspiring riffs and lyrics from singer Eric Rachmany. The group, based out of Santa Barbara, California, met in music school and their musical precision shows. They bring even more energy to the stage than to their album, which is hard to believe. The uplifting lyrics are always about “bringing only good vibes.” They played Red Hat Amphitheater in late June, but they stop by this area annually.
    If you want those chill vibes—the beach-bum kind—you”ll find all you need in Stick Figure, also out of California. Scott Woodruff started with a solo project, until he connected with more talented musicians who slowly joined the pack. And I do mean pack: An acknowledged band member is a rescued Australian shepherd na med Cocoa. She has her own Instagram, @cocoathetourdog, and has a cult following herself. Fans buy dog toys before the show and throw them to her on stage. She travels the world with the guys, surfing and hanging on the beach with them in exotic locations. You’ll find her front-and-center posing for fans.

    Stick Figure opens for Slightly Stoopid on July 13th in Portsmouth, Virginia, and then August 14th at Red Hat. Keep a watch for additional dates, as they have headlined their own show at the Lincoln Theater in the past.
    For some hip-hop groove to go with your reggae, Dirty Heads—the ever-evolving boys out of Huntington Beach, California—play in this area at least twice a year. While they’ve broken into the mainstream with hits like “Lay Me Down” (Any Port in a Storm, 2008), “My Sweet Summer” (Sound of Change, 2014), and “That’s All I Need” (Dirty Heads self-titled, 2016), every album sounds different and they admit they don’t have a “genre.” Whatever they are feeling at the time they plan an album is what is created. Perhaps if you’re only familiar with their earlier songs, you’d be surprised to listen to songs like “Medusa.” New fans are disoriented when their last album sounds completely reggae, and the next is rap-heavy. But I think it’s this diversity and dynamic range that keeps them fresh and interesting. They just played at Red Hat in May, but this summer tour could see dates added. They’ve also played at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the last couple of years.
    While inspired by the likes of Bob Marley and Sublime, or even Cypress Hill, American reggae has its own flavor, its own vibe. It is like a microcosm of America—a melting pot of influences and cultures—and that is its strength. Check out the next show, because you will be welcomed with open arms (and even some tie-dye).
    Keep looking for new dates being announced by each of these bands, and find tickets to see Slightly Stoopid and Stick Figure at StickFigureMusic.com/tour-dates/. 

 Rebelution rocking the red hat. photo by sam deen productions

Rebelution rocking the red hat. photo by sam deen productions