What appeared to be the beginning of an unpleasant, dreary day to attend a show at Stone Pony’s Summer Stage, actually turned out to being a truly defined “summer day” in Asbury Park, NJ. Grey clouds parted their ways as the sunny rays pierced through with the positive vibes and sounds from Aer, Pepper, and The Dirty Heads.
Every time I catch a show with reggae/dub bands, the crowd evolves slightly. There was still the tie-dye, the bandanas, entire summer collection from Pacsun. However, as I usually catch the faint aeroma of Mary doing her tantalizing dance in and out through the crowd, I found they were coming from e-vapes rather than joints or blunts. It’s the little things that intrigue me…
As the line, which wrapped around the venue, finally spilled onto the concrete and found their spots, the first band erupted from the stage. Aer (pronounced like “air”), a hip-hop/reggae/pop group from Boston, was exactly what was needed. Their combination of hip-hop ingredients, such as turntables and a dj, mixed with the essence of that chill, reggae feel really got the audience pumped. The two frontmen, David and Carter, bounced around the stage with high energy levels while David rocked some old school Reebok Pumps. Aer did an unexpected cover of “Shout” that had EVERYONE dancing. At the bridge where they whisper “A little bit softer now…” into “A litte bit louder now…” the crowd lost it. I shamelessly was on the ground and sprang up during this part as well. How could anyone not? I haven’t heard a band do a cover since Saves Ferris. It was almost like their performance was a really pregame to what was to come.
The next band to hit the stage were the Hawaiian heroes of reggae/punk themselves, Pepper. These guys have been around for a while and it was awesome to see them on stage and tear it up. And what’s really impressive about these three dudes is…just that. Pepper has been the same three members since the late 90’s. Kaleo (vox/guitar) even said himself, “Guys, we’re just three dudes from Hawaii, no electronics. Always support live music.” They are so flawlessly stitched together with the tag-team, back-and-forth singing. Kaleo’s growly yet voice, similar to Bradley Nowel’s, adds that intense/raw aspect to their music. And what was great, was that they know exactly who they are and bassist, Brett had no problem informing all of us, “We’re not some jam band,” as he ran up and down the frets of his bass, “…we have that punani bass. None of that John Mayer stuff.”
As the sun began to retreat beneath the Stone Pony Summer Stage, The Dirty Heads coasted in on this beautiful ocean breeze that had rolled in. It couldn’t have been more of a suiting ambiance for them. They started their set off with “Hip Hop Misfits” and followed up with a bunch of new songs off the new album Sound of Change, which included “Franco Eyed,” “Burials,” “Burn Slow,” and a lot more. I noticed some of their newer material has a bit of a different sound. They are transitioning and experimenting with the newer music genres, tying their so-cal and reggae rooted sounds with electronica/trap elements and have featured artists like Tech N9ne, Ward 21, and Cypress Hill member B-Real on the record.
Although they played a majority of songs off their new album, they were playing some older songs as well. During Spread Too Thin, I swear I heard the entire crowd singing along. TDH performed “Garland,” which was a beautiful song live. As Jared sang, There was a bright colored garland/In the lights of my garden/She said calm yourself darling/I’ll find your piece of mind for you, I saw him more as this male-siren, his voice entrancing me combined with the vibrant sound of the organ, and the stage lights that were synched to perfection with the song. Kaleo from Pepper came out in place of Rome Ramirez for “Lay Me Down” that sounded absolutely stellar. Kaleo’s voice was completely complimentary to the song. I couldn’t have asked to be anywhere else on this summer night and listen to some great summer music.