As a New Yorker, I consider the city to be Manhattan and venture out of that area to Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and other boroughs as needed to see great music. This past week I headed out to Long Island to The Theatre at Westbury. [Why you ask?] The only reason to travel anywhere, amazing reggae.
The Theatre at Westbury was hosting an incredible show with Through The Roots, Stick Figure, The Green, J.Boog and Rebelution all on one stage, in one night. For anyone who has not been there, this theatre is worth the drive. Under what looks like an industrial circus tent, the seats are staged in the round, meaning they form a 360 around the stage. The stage itself is a small platform in the center that slowly rotates as the bands perform, making every seat in the house a great seat. In addition they have some amazing food and drinks and a nice outdoor patio for anyone wanting a smoke or a little fresh air.
As we walked in, we passed Anamorphosis Art (www.anamorphosisart.com). Ania Amador and Christopher Morphis had a large canvas set up and were painting along to the music. The piece they were creating was beautiful and captured the vibe of their company which is “committed to spreading a conscious message about peace, love, liberty, and meditation through their collaborative work…”
The first thing I noticed as we grabbed our seats was that there was no stage tunnel or back stage because of how the venue was set up. It was a unique experience as each band walked down the aisle through the crowd to both take and leave the stage. Fans got to see the performers up close, for some high fives and autographs along the way.
Arriving a few minutes late we missed Through The Roots, but nearby fans said they gave a great performance. Hopefully I will catch them next time around. Stick Figure took the stage and as usual Cocoa the tour dog got the fans excited, roaming the stage and allowing fans to pet him. Kicking off with ‘Choice Is Yours’, Stick Figure got the fans on their feet.
Stick Figure followed up with more classics from the Set in Stone album, including a beautiful rendition of ‘Sunshine And Rain’ and ‘Fire on the Horizon’. As they went into ‘Smoking Love’, the lights dimmed and changed to a blend of orange and fire red as if the venue itself was smoking. Stick Figure reminds me of summer. Loose t-shirts and worn out hats, sitting on your parent’s patios smoking spliffs. They're genuinely smiling as they sing and the songs have a sense of positivity.
One of the beautiful things I noticed during this performance was the lack of cell phones. At too many shows I see everyone trying to take pictures and record videos. I admit that I’ve been the culprit many times. But at this show, the crowd was there for the music and focused on that. As they finished their set the band hung out on stage, signed autographs and talked to fans.
It was after this first set that I realized the intimacy of this venue. With the stage on the same level as the crowd (not above it), the bands were able to connect with the crowd in a different way then at other shows. The Green and J. Boog hit the stage next and as they traded songs back and forth you would have thought they had been playing together for years. J. Boog treated us to a great collaboration of The Green’s ‘What Will Be Will Be’ and well as many of his well known tracks. His call and response had the crowd yelling back and forth and he used their seating to start a “wave” that circled the venue multiple times. J. Boog’s quick rise in the reggae music scene is obvious when you see hear his addicting vocals and see the stage presence he brings to shows.
The Green had the crowd on their feet and singing with ‘Rootsie Roots’ off their debut album. Every member of the band is a singer and that resonated as harmonies filled the theatre. They closed their set with ‘Mama Roots’ a collaboration with J. Boog and his latest single ‘Let’s Do It Again’. In their typical style they gave a respectful shoutout to the bands that played before them and took a bow as a full group.
Finally it was time for Rebelution to hit the stage. Although they were the headliner, the fans had already received their money’s worth a few times over. With the album Falling Into Place newly released, fans yearned to hear their new tracks and Rebelution delivered. Rebelution kicked off their set with ‘Inhale Exhale’ a track that normally features Protoje. The crowd was singing the chorus and dancing in the aisles from the first note. They followed this with ‘Good Vibes’, which as one might expect brought a mellow happy tone to the night.
The saxophone and trumpet took extended solos, dueling as they played back and forth, almost taunting each other and increasing the energy. The lead singer slowed down right after this with a solo guitar version of ‘Feeling Alright’ from their first album. It was amazing being in a concert in the round. As the band dove deeper into the album with tracks like ‘Those Days’ you could see the fans across from you waving their hands, swaying their hips and feeling the vibe and energy. The band’s perspective must have been incredible.
Like a simmering pot of soup, Rebelution bring a diversity of styles, sounds and looks to the stage. With the mix of west coast dub, rock with hints of brassy jazz blend, it's a flavor the fans love. All these bands are still on tour, so if you missed this show make sure you check out their sites to see if when they are playing again. I know I will be there next time they come to NYC. We will see you at the show.