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Mikey Dread/Session Rockers with Black Culture, Jewish Mother, Virginia Beach, VA- 1/12

The significance of Mikey Dread in the Reggae community is undeniable. He’s one of those people with nothing at all to prove, because he’s done it all and was there from the beginning. Starting off as a reggae DJ, he’s a master of the “chat” delivery (speaking wisdoms over Dub Reggae) and over the years has been able to move solidly into the MC slot. This known, it was no surprise that The Jewish Mother was packed full for his performance.

First, though, a relatively new crew from the area, known as Session Rockers, took the stage with Black Culture delivering vocals. Working from a Roots Reggae base, the sound was clean and their potential was evident. Highlights were “Mr. Bond,” the ganja tribute known as “Plant Plant” and the title track for their upcoming release through Humble Ark Records, “Voice From the Heart.”

Mikey Dread’s set wasn’t the most solid I’ve seen. As it is these days with a lot of touring Reggae front men, Dread doesn’t tour with a constant backing band. Being the second night with this group, Dread spent a chunk of his time directing and coordinating them. The music would break into a dub section and Mikey Dread would yell, “Drum and bass,” expecting the rest of the instruments to drop out, before yelling, “Just the bass!” A less skilled group of musicians might have gotten flustered, but these guys seemed able to adapt and I’m sure the shows only got more solid from there.

As a side, a few of the guys in the band recently played for Culture as the backing band. Front man Joseph Hill died in 2006, so the band moves on, but I had to take a second look to make sure I was seeing the band I thought I was seeing. Jam-nation is so centered on the music that it’s inconceivable that any of us would go to a show and see a band we didn’t recognize, let alone the same band for two different front men (barring one offs), but so goes Reggae. Vocal legends leave Jamaica for a while, rent a team in the US of A and simply do their thing. It’s a pretty interesting process to watch over the yearsnever knowing how the current band will operate with your favorite vocalists.

Some of Dread’s best songs were “Reggae Gone International,” an up-tempo version of a personal favorite in “Break Down the Walls” and a pretty ridiculous new song (had me laughing) that asks “Have you ever smoked a pound of weed by yourself?” The question I have to come back with is, “in how much time?”

A chunk of the audience (including myself) hadn’t seen Mikey Dread in person before, as he doesn’t come thorough often. However, he claimed that he wants to return in about six months, and most in attendance on this night likely will fill the dance floor once again.

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