It’s been a few weeks since we’ve gone to a concert, so I was really itching for one. Lucky for me, I got a great one to kick off a pretty busy concert month in September. Damian Marley brought his Stony Hill tour to the TLA (Theater of the Living Arts) in Philadelphia.
As someone who loves to travel to Jamaica (I go for a week every year), I’ve really come to love reggae music. I was lucky enough to see Ziggy Marley twice this year (see my review of his show at the Levitate Music Festival outside of Boston this past July – http://tips2liveby.com/levitate-music-festival-day-2-featuring-ziggy-marley/). It had been several years since I saw Damian Marley, so I grabbed tickets for the show as soon as they went on sale.
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Solomonic Sound System
Solomonic Sound System was scheduled to be the opener for the show. Solomonic Sound System was formed in 1996. A “sound system” is a collection of DJs, along with a high-grade sound system that is used at their events. Members of the sound system are known as collectors. The collectors for Solomonic Sound System are Rob Paine (Philadelphia), Zacharijah (HI), Jahson (VT), Papa Fx (Philadelphia/Jamaica), Dave Paine (LA), Rootz, and Chalice.
The tickets, marquee outside the venue, and social media posts all said that the doors to the venue were going to open at 7:00 p.m., with the show starting at 8:00 p.m. We had dinner down the street, and walked over to the venue shortly after 8:00 p.m., and encountered a huge line down the block and around the corner of people waiting to get inside. Turns out, that they didn’t open the doors until around 8:20 p.m. We waited out the long line in a bar next to the venue (it was raining and people were stuck standing outside in line), so it was after 9:00 p.m. before we got in. As a result, if Solomonic Sound System played, we missed their entire set.
You can keep up with Solomonic Sound System and what events they will be playing at their website at www.solomonicsound.com.
The next act scheduled to perform was Kabaka Pyramid. Keron “Kabaka Pyramid” Salmon is from Kingston, Jamaica. He’s an artist and music producer that has been influenced by both reggae and hip hop music.
Kabaka Pyramid first broke onto the music scene in 2007, when he released a promotional mixtape called “The Transition Vol I”, that got attention on the underground hip hop scene. He also began recording reggae music that got regular rotation on the radio in Jamaica. In July of 2011, he released his first EP – “Rebel Music”. He continues to write, perform and produce both hip hop and reggae music.
Again, due to getting in late, we missed all but the last 4 or so songs of Kabaka Pyramid’s set. What we did see was impressive! The fusion of hip hop and reggae really came through in the music. In fact, Kabaka Pyramid performed one song as a “rap off” between him and one of the other members of his band. He did a great job energizing the crowd, including getting people to jump and dance with him in a packed space.
You can download Kabaka Pyramid’s album “Lead the Way” here: http://amzn.to/2gKFp1v
Kabaka Pyramid currently has shows scheduled through September and October. You can find out more at his website at www.kabakpyramid.bandcamp.com.
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
After Kabaka Pyramid was finished, the sold-out crowd was getting anxious for Damian Marley to come on stage. The house lights finally dimmed around 9:45 p.m., and Marley’s band took the stage. After the MC of the night did a quick introduction, the band started to play. Marley walked on stage to a screaming crowd of excited fans!
Damian Marley is the youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley. Marley was only 2 years old when his father died. His nickname – Jr. Gong – is derived from Bob’s nickname – Tuff Gong.
At age 13, Marley formed a group called the Shephards, which fell apart quickly when Damian embarked on a solo career. He released his first album – “Mr. Marley” – in 1996 on his father’s Tuff Gong record label. The album surprised a lot of people, as they were used to hearing the Marley’s sing rather than deejaying.
Marley had his first big commercial success with the release of his third studio album in 2005 – “Welcome to Jamrock”. The album won Grammy’s in 2006 for Best Reggae Album and for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Marley is the only Jamaican reggae artist to ever win two Grammy awards on the same night.
In 2010, Marley collaborated with hip hop artist Nas, to release the album “Distant Relatives”. He had previously worked with Nas on the song “Road to Zion” from the “Welcome to Jamrock” album.
Marley’s 4th studio album – “Stony Hill” – was released in July and is the album he is supporting with this current tour. You can download the album here: http://amzn.to/2z30I8L
As soon as Marley took the stage, he went right into his hard hitting brand of reggae. Having seen Ziggy earlier in the year, who plays a much more mellow reggae, Damian’s version is more in tune with some of the newer reggae that is coming out of Jamaica. More of a combination of reggae and hip hop, the music has a strong beat.
Marley did a good job of combining old and familiar songs, with songs from his new album – Stony Hill. In addition, utilizing the video screen behind him, there were video and still images that added to the story of each song.
Not unexpected from the Marley’s – who have always been very politically and socially active as a family – Damian Marley shared some messages with the crowd throughout his set. Themes around legalizing marijuana, social justice for the people of Jamaica (and around the world), and the actions of police in Jamaica were weaved into the music.
Marley was joined onstage by his band, which included two female back-up singers. Not only were these two ladies talented vocally, but they danced non-stop throughout the set.
Also present – and a standard at a Damian Marley show – was the gentleman that my husband and I affectionately refer to as the “flag guy”. He waves a flag bearing the Jamaican colors and the Marley symbol – a lion. I’m not sure how he does it, as the flag is waved non-stop for 90 minutes. His arms must be exhausted! My husband and I always joke that “flag guy” is the one member of the Marley family that can’t sing or play an instrument, so that’s the job they give him so he can still be in the show!
As Ziggy did during his shows this summer, Damian weaved some of his father’s music into the show as well. He included the refrain of “Exodus” into one of his songs. He also played “Is This Love”, getting the crowd to sing along.
After wrapping up the main set, Marley took a short break and then came back on stage for his encore. As Marley took the stage, the crowd was chanting “Jamrock”, begging for Marley’s biggest hit. He played three songs, including “Road to Zion”. Marley then thanked the crowd again for coming out before going into what everyone was waiting for – “Welcome to Jamrock”. Anyone who left early to beat the crowd missed out, as the energy was electric, Marley was on fire, and the crowd loved every second of it.
This is only the fourth date on Damian’s Stony Hill tour. He’ll be touring throughout the U.S. through the end of October, so there are lots of chances to catch him near you. Check out his website at www.damianmarleymusic.com for information on upcoming dates.
Set List: Intro, Here We Go, Hey Girl, More Justice, Beautiful, Upholstery, Time Travel, Medication, The Mission (Stephen Marley cover), Love & Inity, The Struggle Discontinues, War/No More Trouble (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover), Move/Exodus, Looks are Deceiving, R.OA.R, Nail Pon Cross, Living It Up, Is This Love (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover). Encore: ?, Road to Zion, Welcome to Jamrock
Have questions about Damian Marley or the show? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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