Georgia Band Adds Rock And More To Reggae
The Set List
By Brian Washburn
For all intents and purposes reggae died more than a decade ago with Sublime and Slightly Stoopid (even though the latter still tours today). However, for one to really realize the demise of the popular Jamaican genre, it died with the death of its innovator to the masses Bob Marley, even though his legacy is still running strong today. But this does not mean the genre still does not exist, it just might not seem like it was the way it used to when you listened to Sublime groove about how lovin’ is what they got. But Savannah, Ga.’s Passafire is living proof of the extent to which the genre has transformed.
Combining rock and almost metal guitar work at times, Passafire will leave listeners guessing what type of song will come up next on their new release “Everyone on Everynight,” which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes music charts after its release last month.
The band — vocalist/guitarist Ted Bowne, bassist/vocalist Will Kubley, keyboardist Adam Willis and drummer Nick Kubley — have had a unique way of turning their smalltime Reggae passion into a full-time gig.
After Passafire formed in 2003, while attending a 311 and Pepper concert (both modern examples of the fusion of rock and reggae), a member of Passafire slipped a copy of the band’s debut album into the hands of Pepper. For the band the rest has been history … well a history of touring thus far.
The band has played with the likes of 311, Van Haley and Matisyahu and, with the release of “Everyone on Everynight,” are embarking on their own headlining concert, which will roll through George’s Majestic Lounge tomorrow night with Rebelution. But those who expect this to be a strictly jam and reggae concert should open up their minds and broaden their horizon to what Passafire has done with their predecessors’ reggae genre.
Rock is not the only genre Passafire is blending with their modern reggae mix. The introduction to “Illuminate” could come straight from a Killers’ song or from an early Cure tune. But when you think you are about to indulge into the middle of an ’80s pop/synth/reggae jumble, the band blindsides you with an unwarranted metal chug on the guitar, which after a few listens becomes enjoyable.
On a number of the rest of the album’s tracks, the guitar work is what pulls listeners in. it’s not your typical two-chord reggae filler music fans are used to. No, it’s the main component to Bowne and Kubley’s vocals, which fluctuate from stereotypical reggae vocals (“Casting of the Cares”) to generic pop-rock vocals with generic lyrics at times (“Here In Front of Me”).
The two gems on the album, “You’re Here” and “Queen of Spades,” successfully achieve what Passafire has been attempting to do with the entire album-create a radio-viable hit out of a reggae and pop-rock mix. Both songs have potential and are reminiscent of early OAR (before they turned strictly pop).
The rotating genre well on Everyone on Everynight is confusing, blundering and enjoyable to see what comes up next. Besides, the guitar intro into “Leave the Lights On” causes you to think you are heading into a metal concert with your horns in the air before you get your mood shifted into a stoners’ paradise.
Passafire does not have an album on their hands that will crossover into enormous radio success, but they are on their way to redefining the reggae genre as many bands have done before them. But if the band only finds a level of success on par with Pepper and Slightly Stoopid, then that’s all this redefined reggae genre needs.