Photos by Abby Lynn Pierce
It has been an excellent summer for reggae music in Florida’s St Augustine Amphitheater. Slightly Stoopid’s recent appearance was loaded with big names and good vibes that brought people together in ways they might not have expected. On their summer tour, Slightly Stoopid is joined by Iration, J Boog and The Hot Rain Band and The Movement. These U.S.-based groups have an authenticity to their music but also an approachability, headiness, and sensuality that communicates easily with audiences.
The Movement is a highly motivated band that fuses alt-rock and reggae to convey a bold message that strikes on less heady and more confrontational subjects. The group is from the south, not California, Hawaii or some other palm-tree-laced marijuana-scented locale. They have worked themselves into a tight-knit scene of U.S. reggae music by touring for over 10 years. Their new single with Stick Figure shows a big step forward by proving The Movement can stand up to some of the bigger names in reggae. Their live sound is record-quality and they lent a great energy to the earliest part of the evening.
J Boog followed The Movement. The Hot Rain Band provided groovy instrumentalists and backup singers. The Hawaii-based singer has a more authentic and obviously island inspired flow that provides a reminder of the roots and inspirations of more modern and Americanized reggae acts. J Boog embraces a sensuality both lyrically and melodically and it was no surprise that his single “Let’s Do It Again” was one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the night. With the addition of The Hot Rain Band, we were treated to a unique set that embraced J Boog’s hits while also emphasizing his ability to bring crowds into a jam they may not have heard before.
As the sun set and excitement filled the amphitheater, Hawaii-based Iration brought their good vibes and upbeat fluidity to the stage. Their latest single “Fly With Me” is a preview of what is to come from Iration, but when I spoke with bassist Adam Taylor prior to the set, he made it clear that the new record will be different from what we have heard from them up until now. Unfortunately, they did not play any previews of the new, more pop inspired tracks that are to come.
Still, they treated us to all the hits from their repertoire. They are a fairly low-key act with no gimmicks or antics. One of the most noticeable things about their live show is that they are always beaming with smiles onstage. It is a radiant experience that is obviously designed for the fans.
Slightly Stoopid was the night’s headliner and they delivered like true headliners, despite playing alongside peers who have gained almost equal fame in their own rights. Slightly Stoopid has an upbeat, rap and rock inspired reggae sound with a heady, rebellious energy. There are chilled out moments in their music too, but those were a little less prevalent at this appearance. The interactive, high fiving, crowd hugging band mates projected a vibe that was easily reflected in the crowd. Groovy brass lends a bright eclectic sound that allows Slightly Stoopid to never fully depart from their roots.
Their front man moves around the stage, and the instrumentalists project a range of good vibes without speaking. Hits like “This Joint” are obviously 420 friendly but these guys succeed without screaming for the crowd to light up in a venue where people have been escorted out in handcuffs for smoking a joint. Of course the smell was there, alongisde the element of free-spirited positivity that these songs are meant to evoke.
As they played, whirring kaleidoscopic lights were projected at the amphitheater’s canvas awnings. We were treated to dandelion colored projections, deep violet beams and hazy cyans. Advances in technology paired with a talented lighting team make for an almost palpable light show.
As the night progressed, Slightly Stoopid played all their hits. They seem to have fun onstage and even though their sound isn’t perfect or record-quality, it is relentlessly fun to watch. As somewhat of a fan, I don’t think anyone expects vocal perfection from them. Their front man has more of a flow and a confidence than a perfection. They take time for guitar solos, brass sections, bass riffs and bright percussion, highlighting every element of their sound while keeping a steady pace through it all. It is the kind of highly engaging, hands swaying in the air music that draws people in and leaves dancing crowds sweaty and smiling as time flies by. We look forward to seeing more reggae come through The St Augustine venue, despite the heat it is a special venue where this type of music thrives.