With 2011 coming to an end, we just wanted to take a moment to reflect on another fun calendar year. We’re also looking forward to 2012, most of all because we’ll be releasing …Against the Current in the first quarter. It’s been an over-a-year-long recording project, and some of you have been a little impatient about this album. But it’s been a busy year, and here are some of the highlights:
February 25 – the night we opened for dancehall legend Barrington Levy. If you’ve been following us for at least a couple of years, you know we had a heartbreaking experience in 2009 when, so the story goes, Mr. Levy wasn’t allowed in the US in time to play the show at the Note. We were supposed to open that show, and this was perhaps the worst in a long series of letdowns for us. We may never have recovered from this disappointment and disillusionment, were it not for Jamaican Dave coming through with this great opportunity at the Blockley Pourhouse in Philadelphia this year. We’ll never forget the hundreds of faces staring at us when we took the stage as they impatiently waited for Barrington to arrive, their cold gazes melting away, much to our relief, when we started playing. But we couldn’t have enjoyed it so much without all the support from our friends and fans that night.
The first third of 2011 was a little slow for us, as our bassist, B. Hold, was wrapping up his thesis before graduating from Penn State. Inspired by his experiences with reggae music, and informed by two weeks of field research in Jamaica, this gargantuan paper, “We Black Build the Music”: Rastafarian Perspectives on Participation of Whites in Reggae and Nyahbinghi Music, was complemented by a 32-minute video documentary, Our Songs of Patience. Whether you’re a reggae musician or just a fan, we highly recommend this video to deepen your appreciation for this genre.
We did the usual Atlantic City beach bar gigs, which were fun as always, even though the rain seemed to downpour on us at the end of every gig, when it was time to take our gear across the boardwalk and back to the van. Luckily, we came away with no damage, enjoyed many a Sunday afternoon with fun-loving crowds on the beach, and made a few new friends in the process. But the highlight of summer 2011, without a doubt, was this:
That’s right, we got to open for Toots & the Maytals, legendary founding fathers of reggae music. Many of you were there, so we don’t need to tell you how incredible this was. The Blockley sold out that night, which is an impressive feat for a Wednesday night in July – but after all, it’s Toots we’re talking about.
The best things comes in threes – says this band that has never played a waltz (yet) – so it was only fitting that we got on the bill with John Brown’s Body, one of our favorite reggae bands, in November. All 4 Razors agree: JBB is one of the most talented and creative acts in reggae music today, far surpassing the majority of manufactured island pop that somehow passes as reggae. If you’re not listening to these guys, you’re seriously missing out.
Wondering what that picture is on the flyer above? Well, certain members of the band have these fancy Android-powered phones that have schmancy cameras with nifty special effects. On late-night drives home from gigs, especially in the torrential downpours we mentioned earlier, we take pictures of the road ahead of us. Mark made this flyer using one of his photos that looked especially cool and flyer-appropriate, but we have plenty more that, at least for us, symbolize the psychedelic exhaustion that comes from a long day at a gig in the hot sun, especially when you’re trapped inside of Morpheus (the band van) with James Hoy for a couple of hours at a time (you have to know the guy).
Speaking of the band van, we did have one sad moment this year (besides the loss of Johnny’s dreadlocks due to an unfortunate smelting accident). We had to say goodbye to our good friend, Morpheus. The old gray van has served us well for over three years, and we have many memories from within that we would be quite unwise to share with any of you. But here’s a shot from Labor Day weekend at the Getdown Festival in Mebane, NC, the furthest we’ve ever taken Morpheus on the road. Thanks to our friends Kim and Paul for letting us crash that weekend – Morpheus does not like to be slept in.
As we say goodbye to another great year, we look forward to an even better one. We’re starting it off with a show at the North Star Bar next Wednesday, January 4th – click here for your tickets! And in preparation of the upcoming album release, we’re posting a song on Soundcloud every Wednesday in January – the return of Reggae Wednesday, if you will. We already released track 1, “United Nation,” on Christmas Day. Please enjoy and let us know what you think.
Stay tuned for an official album release date announcement, have a safe New Years Eve, and look forward to 2012 with courage and thanks!
Johnny, Mark, James, and B. Hold