By Marc Quadagno
First of all, I just want to say I love living in New York City.
As a lover of live music, especially at shows with local bands who also have worldwide notoriety, there's an indescribable feel to the venue, the performance, and the fans, one that borders on the vibe of a local show while still carrying the awe of a touring band. Being from Brooklyn, one could technically say this show in Manhattan wasn't a local show at all, but the band had their hometown crew in full force, and there were clearly fans who knew only some of the band's entire catalog, those that were there to hear their favorite songs.
Their first album was self-released in 2010, called, "In the Streets," and it mixed reggae with genres such as hip hop. It allowed them to grow with both generations of fans – new and old - and they built their live performance chops opening for artists such as Matisyahu and Collie Buddz, eventually touring with Buddz. They continued to growing their fan base overseas, appearing at festivals such as the Reggae on the River, Summer Jam in Germany, and Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden, eventually signing to NYC-based label, Easy Star Records.
Kingston City, the third studio album by the band, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart the week of February 14, 2015, according to Wikipedia, with The Pier Magazine giving Kingston City four of five stars, proclaiming that the album is "a mix of roots, dancehall, R&B and hip hop influences,” and the band continued to tour, this time as headliners.
There's a familial quality to being in the audience at a New Kingston shows - they shake hands with the audience and make themselves a part of the audience; they engage - and if it feels like family, it's for good reason: the band consists of three brothers and a father, Courtney Panton Sr, the bass player, part of the New York reggae scene for quite some time.
No wonder that the three Panton brothers were introduced to reggae music at a very young age and have perfected it as art.
Of course, like all new bands, the band grew tight as a unit by covering hit songs, and by focusing on classic artists such as Bob Marley, their education of the genre surely shows.
Their music is fantastic. A wonderful mix of new and classic reggae, full of the same messages of peace, love, revolution, and ganja. It's like they attended the school of reggae here in Brooklyn and merged the two worlds.
When they started playing on this night, I was immediately taken away to an island location, but then again, their music still has a New York City (or, perhaps, a Brooklyn) grit. And then, I remembered where I was...
I am on an island. This is Manhattan. This is New York City and New York City reggae and it fits.
They fit on the stage, and they deserve to be there. You can tell that these boys are brothers and have been playing together for their entire lives. It's no wonder that after some time performing in basements and parties in Brooklyn, the group began to work on original music and the result has been successful for them so far.
The brothers three owned all eyes in the room while on stage, took turns singing, and, their father, who plays the typical bass player roll, looks not to steal any spotlight from his sons, and their cousin on percussion.
As a new fan of the band, I did take some time to listen to the music before the concert, though, it was not enough to sing along as did most of the rest of the audience.
But I thoroughly enjoyed the concert so it clearly didn't matter and that's proof enough that it was a great show.
Then about halfway into the concert, they played a song that was definitely a key for everyone in the audience who knew what was about to happen, because before I knew it, everyone in the club was smoking weed. I mean, everyone. It was surreal to me.
I've never been around that many people smoking weed in public. I think I half expected the cops to run in and arrest everyone. Then I imagined big security guards not letting the cops in.
Boy - was I getting a contact high?
Maybe, because I decided to just relax and to continue to enjoy the island music in a smoky bar on a little island.
Apparently that was no contact high, because I still have my memories. And the memories of that night are good ones, because the people were great, the music was chill and the vibe was "peace and love."
How could you not have a good time?
I highly… ahem… I strongly recommend you go to a New Kingston show as soon as possible!