John Brown’s Body Ends Year With Signature Reggae Sound in Denver
By: Johnathan Gang
The New Year arrived with a mellow bang Friday night, ushered in by progressive reggae institution John Brown’s Body. The Boston and New York-based band came to Denver bearing their unique “future roots” gumbo of roots reggae, rock ‘n roll, dub, funk dance, and various strains of world music as part of a two-night, co-headlining stand at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Showroom with hometown jam-heroes the Motet.
JBB has been at for 16 years and their hard-won elder-statesmanship shows itself in more ways than front man Elliot Martin’s thinning dreadlocks. It’s sound has steadily evolved over the years, from early forays into straight-up reggae to newer experiments with progressive rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. The band has spent a great deal of their 16 years on the road, relentlessly touring the US and the world, building a dedicated fan base from the ground up.
The band took the stage in the waning moments of 2010 and kept the crowd steadily-groovin’ until just shy of midnight. Their set featured a smattering of old school, rootsy favorites and more experimental, dance flavored material from their more recent releases, including 2008’s Amplify. In addition to Martin’s smooth, Mikey Dread-esque vocals, the group was bolstered by the tight horns of Scott Flynn, Drew Sayers, and Sam Dechenne, as well as the ever-present rocksteady riddims supplied by the rhythm section of bassist Nate Edgar and Drummer Tommy Benedetti. However, the star of the show might have been sound engineer Jocko, who is listed as a member of the band. His offstage board-twiddling mastery gave the band the airy, spacious dub sound one expects of a great reggae act; no small feat in the often muddy-sounding mid-size club environment of Cervantes’.
The band will continue to march through Colorado for much of January, including dates in Aspen, Crested Butte, Telluride, and Durango. If you missed the New Years stand, or perhaps if you didn’t quite get your fill of JBB’s forward looking approach to classic reggae, it might just satisfy your soul to track them down as they embark on their third decade of creating roots music for the 21st century.