Jah Man!On a freezing cold Friday night on the last day of November, my friend and I throw back our margaritas, bundle up and head out into the snow to make our way to Armadillo's Burritos in Keene, New Hampshire to see a band called Roots of Creation. Even though we get there early, the bar is already filled and the beer line goes almost to the door. I'm skeptical about the band, but by the second song, I'm sold. Roots of Creation has that sort of effect on people. Seven months and one cross-country move from Vermont to Bend later, it seems like the band has followed me across the continent for two Central Oregon shows.
The New Hampshire reggae-fueled jam band is set to light up Les Schwab Amphitheater this Sunday for a free Summer Sundays gig, then return just a week later to play the Bite of Bend. The band has perfected a mix of intelligent lyrics (think a less political Rage Against The Machine) and a laid-back reggae feel (similar to Sublime) but no two songs are exactly alike. Whether it's the infectious pop tune "That's How Strong My Love Is," the smooth Marley-esque crooning about utopian society in "Babylon" or straight-up guitar-driven rock jam in "(A) Peace, Love and Music," this band keeps the listener interested. And just when you think you might have their sound pigeonholed they burst out with a soul-infused "Breathe It > Exhale" and "Made for Me," a quiet little rock song with a tinge of twangy country guitar. The band, which cites everyone from Sublime to Paul McCartney and Operation Ivy as influences, manages to tie everything into a cohesive unit with consistent vocals and beats.
This band also has the ability to connect with audiences in a live performance setting no matter how large, small or crowded the venue. Band members seem to be having so much fun playing that it can feel like a concert for one ... until you're jolted out of your private experience by your neighbor's flailing arms spilling your beer as he or she performs what appears to be some sort of ancient mating ritual dance.
Formed in 2000 at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, Roots of Creation released its first album in 2004, entitled The End of the Beginning. The band then released Rise Up! in 2006, a record that ate its way up the reggae charts and earned the band a nomination for Best World Music Act at the 2007 Boston Music Awards. Roots of Creation continues to expand its fan base and is no longer just an East Coast favorite. "Our fans used to be mainly from the East Coast, but we've had so many transplants that have seen us and then moved or gone back home," says Brett Wilson, the band's guitarist and lead vocalist. "We went on a national tour to play for those fans," he says.
Like many bands in their genre, Roots of Creation is also out to achieve the overtly overambitious goal of saving the world. The band often plays shows for causes like canned food drives, peace rallies and teen center benefits. Their albums are packaged with 70 percent post-consumer product recycled cardboard, and their posters are made from recycled paper. Any shirts sold by the band are sweatshop-free.
"We try to make our products as conscious as we can," says Wilson. The band also plans to convert their tour bus to run on vegetable oil. "It's just a win-win situation for everyone - good for the environment, less expensive for us," says Wilson.
There's more than enough reggae going on in this town and you're probably wondering why you should give a damn about another stop off by a traveling reggae-infused act. Roots of Creation appeals to more than just reggae enthusiasts. Whether you like ska, punk, rock, dance or just an all out jam session, this band has something for everyone. Just watch out for spastic dancers in the vicinity of your beer.
Roots of Creation
2:30pm Sunday, June 15. Les Schwab Amphitheater
344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr. 5:30pm Sunday, June 22. Bite of Bend, downtown Bend.