Date: Sunday July 29th, 2012
Line up: SOJA, Inner Circle, Groove Stain
Location: Maverick’s at The Landing. Jacksonville, FL
Set Times: SOJA- 1030-12:15pm, Inner Circle – 9:10-10:05pm, Groove Stain: 8:00 – 8:45pm
Before stepping onto the west leg of Unity Tour, SOJA made a small, three show run around the South East, with the infamous Inner Circle as support! The Pier caught all the action Sunday night as SOJA, Inner Circle, and Groove Stain, rocked Maverick’s at The Landing in Jacksonville, Florida!
The Jacksonville area is one of The Pier’s favored spots to watch a show. With excellent venues and an amazing amount of reggae-rock fans, bands love to come party in this market! As we meandered through downtown, I noticed that it being Sunday night, the town was completely dead, and I wondered if went to the correct venue. With doors scheduled to open at 7:30, we walked up to the venue around 7:00, and found a long line of people in SOJA attire. I knew we were in the right place!
We walked around back, getting into the venue as Groove Stain was finishing up their sound check. While they jammed and tested out the mics, we checked out the very cool and colorful array of merchandise. As we set up the cameras and scoped out the rustic double decker Maverick’s, we were abruptly greeted by members of Groove Stain, and went right to the green room to take the notorious Pier sticker photo!
Taking a seat on an odd, oversized purple chair, we discussed the line-up of the night, and their new album Hit The Breaks. “We just released the record in June… we have been working real hard supporting it…” Trumpet player and vocalist, John Etheridge continued “It’s an honor playing with reggae legends… We’ve opened for Toots & The Maytals, The English Beat, continued support of SOJA, and now Inner Circle… It’s something special!”
Geoff, Groove Stain’s new manager agreed, ” This is crazy.. I remember seeing Inner Circle down in South Florida when I was 12… and now to be here, managing a band who’s sharing the stage with these legends!…” This line up was certainly special, The Pier was excited to see this unique mixture of three truly talented bands that encompass all styles of the genre!
Close to 8:00, people started to flow in, forming the pit, line by line, from the front railing to the back of the house. All the fans that came out early were fully rewarded, with Groove Stain’s high energy, catchy reggae-rock -hip-hop-ska mixture. Playing a 45 minute opening set, Groove Stain tore through ten tracks, heavily laying into the new material off Hit The Breaks.
In honor of the SOJA Army, the set featured a version of Star Wars’ “Imperial March” followed by “End of Days,” a song that features SOJA on the album recording! After playing their popular single “Out All Night” the Atlanta crew was forced to give up the stage. It was a short set but it packed a punch, successfully warming up the crowd for the reggae veterans!
Around 9:00 the all-ages crowd maxed out at an intimate 700 capacity venue, ready to see the “Bad Boys” of reggae. Just getting back from Europe, as part of their world tour, Inner Circle signed on to support a few shows with SOJA. This is not a group that performs every night, so fans were more than excited to see the performance.
Just after nine, Inner Circle began jammin’ that familiar Jamaican reggae sound, with an intensity and passion, that I don’t think the crowd was ready for! They started out, warming up, with up-tempo bouncy roots reggae, that included a tease of Crazy Baldheads.” The group then progressed into more pop oriented reggae music. Four songs in, the bands busted out their cover of Wiz Kalifa’s ” Young. Wild & Free,” a song that reveals why Inner Circle had such great crossover success.
The highlight of the set had to be the amp’d up ending. As the opening notes to “Sweet La La La” rung out through the crowd, Singer Kris Bentley leaped off the stage onto the front railing, to serenade a lucky lady! After the personal version of the hit, the group went right into the much anticipated “Bad Boys.” From there, they surprisingly transitioned into ” Welcome to Jamrock,” then into a drum solo by Lancelot Hall followed by a quick bass courtesy of Mr. Ian Lewis, and then back into the iconic classic, “Bad Boys.”
Overall, Inner Circle’s hour long set surpassed expectation, as the crowd loved every minute of the high energy performance! As a fan explained to The Pier “I saw Steel Pulse recently and scratched them off the bucket list… now I get to scratch off a band I have always wanted to see, Inner Circle!” If a chance to see Inner Circle presents itself, do not hesitate to see these legends!
During the break many fans could be heard talking about the upcoming performance. Several fans told The Pier about what they hope to hear. We met Dave, a fan who drove an hour from Flagler Beach and got a great view from the balcony, for his fifth SOJA show. He told us “I can’t wait to hear the new stuff… I want to hear Strength to Survive!” Samantha followed by saying, “I love SOJA, especially Bobby Lee!… I would love to hear “Stars and Stripes,” “True love” or “Summer Breeze!”
After recording at Inner Circle’s Circlehouse Studios in Miami, FL, SOJA finally gets to share the stage with their inspiration, playing three shows along the East Coast. SOJA is on a mission this summer, keeping busy with major festivals, and constant touring; they are hitting every market, maybe even twice! Playing a short, and early set way back in April, at the Allman Brother’s Band’s Wanee Festival, fans were more than excited to have SOJA back in the area, headlining a full set!
Walking out to deafening screams, the 8 piece Packed the tiny stage. As if SOJA had heard our conversation, they started with a fan favorite, “Summer Breeze.” As they got into the hit, the “reggae concert smell” instantly lofted up from the pit, as fans danced and sang along. Currently supporting their new record, Strength to Survive,” the bands second song was “Gone Today,” “a tribute to the late, great, Chuck Brown.”
SOJA’s sound has really evolved since their beginnings, as the high point of the set showed. They played “Be Aware” into “Sorry,” showcasing Booby Lee’s deep roots vocals, and the heart of SOJA, Kenny Bongos’ percussion section. The practiced compositions of the older songs are full sounding and refined, showing how SOJA has grown into a modern, soon to be, mainstream reggae fusion outfit.
Jacob Hemphill’s beautifully mellow vocals almost hypnotized the crowd, song after song, even singing a cover of O.A.R.’s “Over and Over.” Before ending the set, the band broke Jacobs trance with “To Whom It May Concern.” The upbeat song rallies up the crowd as lead guitarist, Trevor Young and drummer, “Ryan Berty” juggle drum sticks, while sax player, Hellman Escorcia joins in on percussion. After a quick break, to the chant of “SOJA, SOJA” Jacob started into “Everything Changes” on his acoustic guitar. A few measures in, the rest of the band joined in to finish the encore!
Because SOJA had big dates booked in Europe, at summer festivals like All Good and Floyd Fest., and in PA with Dave Mathews Band, fans missed SOJA on the east leg of Unity Tour. Fans were very appreciative they could play this killer show before they joined the tour. It was one experience to remember!
SOJA Set List:
2.) Godfather/Gone Today
3.) I Don’t Wanna Wait
4.) It’s Not Too Late
5.) Let You Go
6.) Be Aware
8.) Rasta Courage
9.) You Don’t Know
10.) Strength To Survive
11.) Over and Over (O.A.R. Cover)
13.) To Whom It May Concern
14.) Not Done Yet
15.) You and Me
16.) Here I Am Encore
17.) Everything Changed
18.) Be With Me Now
Inner Circle Set List:
1.) Better Way
2.) We A Rockers
3.) Rock With You
4.) Young. Wild & Free
6.) Jacob Medley
7.) Games People Play
9.) Bad Boys
Groove Stain Set List:
2.) Shut Down
4.) The One
5.) Star Wars
6.) End of Days
7.) Back Down
8.) Keep Us Blind
9.) Tunnel Vision
10.) Out All Night
Article By: Aaron Solomon
Photo By: Peter Monti