Rebelution / Iration, The Fox Theater, Oakland, CA – 1/15
Photo by Kelsey Winterkorn
The Fox Theater in Oakland is without a doubt one of the better venues in the Bay Area. The recently renovated old hall is located in one of the areas of downtown that has seen a turnaround lately. Another, catchier, name for the area is Oaksterdam. Home to a number of cannabis dispensaries and Oaksterdam University (“America’s first cannabis college was founded in 2007 to provide students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry”), the area has undergone a green revolution of its own. However, on this night there was other business to be taken care of. The popular SoCal reggae band Rebelution topped a bill that also included Iration and the funk collective known as Orgone. The Oaksterdam spirit was burning bright. This was a ticket for the new era of concerts. Actually a throwback to the jam-packed bills of the early days of rock and roll, this show was packed full of music at an affordable price and the crowd reflected that. There were high-school kids enjoying the first tastes of night life and the college kids out determined to find a party. The bill was set up so no one was going to be disappointed. The show sold out but didn’t fill up until Rebelution came on around 10:30 or so.
The crowd responded well to the groove of Orgone. The early crowd that had lined up at 8 to get in was welcomed to a strong set, anchored by the Sly Stone classic, “I Wanna Take You Higher.” As the crowd mingled and made their way into the venue, the second act, Iration, took the stage. It’s so important, and quite underrated, to have a solid group of opening acts. Iration was the key to the show. They had a laid-back attitude and provided a solid introduction for Rebelution. With sizzling metal riffs tucked into a solid reggae foundation, Iration showed themselves to be one of the better purveyors of the SoCal reggae sound. This sound, from Sublime to 311, has the easy reggae and slightly punk edge, that is stereotypical Los Angeles. Iration put on a great show with an easy rapport with the audience. Singalongs, stage banter, and the friendly invitations to chat with the band gave the feeling that the group enjoys the fans and are having a great time on the tour and that the music was an extension of this. A scene like this one always makes the concerts better and the buzz as the curtained lowered for the changeover steadily increased.
When the main band took the stage and the curtain rose, there was an enthusiastic roar that went up with the clouds of smoke. As the band swung into the pro-herb anthem, “Green to Black,” the Fox started swaying. The band kicked off the third show of their Winter Greens national tour to a cheering, ecstatic crowd. The guys, rocking the orange and black colors of the Bay Area, were all smiles. The bouncy dub sound stretched out across the floor as the band seemed to play with the tempo and stretch out the joyous sounds of the track, “Lazy Afternoon”. The young crowd ate up the positive lyrics and the vibes. The steady one drop showed that even though the band didn’t mind stretching out into dub territory, they are also faithful to the roots reggae that generally typifies the genre. Floating through the evening on clouds of smoke, the night stretched on as smiles shot across the room and the whole building got into groove. The lyrics off their new album, Bright Side of Life, allowed the crowd to feel socially conscious, while at the same time forgetting any troubles and just losing it in the music. While staying solidly grounded in the reggae style, Rebelution bent and stretched the meaning of just what reggae meant. The bands songs brought a bit of the Santa Barbara beach to Oakland that night and the crowd responded. For just a couple of hours it was easy to forget you were in the middle of the cold January night in Oakland and pretend you were with a few thousand friends on the beaches to the south. Music should transport you to another place and I think the sold out crowd would agree that Rebelution did just that.