Summer Jam 2013 at Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach this Labor Day Weekend surely lived up to Music Jam Productions’ motto – Keeping Live Music Alive. The second annual show’s lineup featured bands and artists who are serious about music (read, not overly commercial). Despite the good music and vibes, the size of the crowd was a surprise. A casual head count by the photographer had the crowd at about 300-375 people, at 8pm on Day 1 but more on that later.
The sound production was above average prompting me to find out who was handling the backstage technicals. I spoke with Justin from the sound company Kaufmann Daezner and he said that they had also done the sound for last year’s show. There was none of the typical sound issues such as feedback or mic outages that can often ruin a good show.
Emcee Lance O of Kulcha Shok Musik noted of the first day that “for three of the bands, this was a reunion concert,” namely Alana Davis, Doorway 27 and the local favorite, Boxelder.
Inner Circle’s performance felt intimate since crowd size allowed fans to get very close to the stage. The band really worked to get the crowd involved and the people were dancing. Longtime faves such as Sweat, Bad Boys and Forward Jah Jah Children kept the crowd rocking.
For many of us from the Carribbean, Inner Circle would have been the ‘don’t miss’ act on Saturday, but it was obvious that the majority of the draw for those in attendance was Boxelder. Their performance was a fusion of reggae and rock and made me think of bands such as Steel Pulse or Aswad with a little Pink Floyd flavor.
The second day was expected to be the bigger draw with Taurus Riley and Dean Fraizer as well as Etana slated to perform. At this point I must address one of the most obvious aspects of this year’s Summer Jam, the low attendance. After asking around among friends and family in Palm Beach County, including a few who work or have been in concert/event promotion, it seems that not much promotion was done in our communities in Palm Beach. Which brings me to the other elephant in the room – a mostly white crowd. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it is surprising that more of our community was not out, especially for the evening performances.
While I expected that many of us may be unfamiliar with acts like Orange Juice, Nerver, Resinated and The Moska Project, I expected to see the usual 6pm influx of Island Folk strolling in to catch Inner Circle, Etana, Taurus and Dean. I also expected the more serious music lovers to come in for Rootz Underground as well. While RootzU may not have the name recognition Inner Circle or Dean, they have performed well at Sunsplash, and toured with many well-known acts for more than 10 years now. This weekend was no disappointment. Lead singer, Stevie ‘Lightning’ Newland gave a performance that was just as energetic and “fulla vibes” as his name suggests, wearing a t-shirt that declared “Chant and Plant.” RootzU also brought Kenny Bongos of SOJA on to do his thing on the bongos during the performance as a treat. The audience was energized by his dancing, jumping and kimpookalick style as his voice blended with the smooth notes and singing of the rest of the band.
We had a chance to chat with Chris and Ricky ‘Como’ from SowFlo. This was another band that was new to me but the guitar riffs and steady rhythyms of their songs really drew me in. When asked who inspires them musically, both bredrins rolled eyes to indicate the list was long. I asked them to narrow it down to the top three and they listed Bob, Sublime and Steel Pulse. They were just coming off a summer tour of the Midwest.
The mood backstage was one of Love and Inity. We were able to vibe with so many of the key people including Patrick Mariast, the promoter from Music Jam who assured us that despite what may seem like low turnout, this is an improvement over last year. Patrick says that this festival is building momentum and that he already has his permits to do it all again over Labor Day weekend 2014.
The vendors included Zainabu Cosmetics also a distributor for the MyDNA line of natural bath and beauty products including pleasingly scented shea butter and sulfate free shampoos. Keziah Wanjuhl was there with a beautiful line of authentic, handmade, African accessories and wares. Her cutout earrings were seen on several other vendors and some of the music crew. Not to be missed was the presence of the King of Reggae Music with the Marley Beverage Company hosting a booth with t-shirt, poster and Marley’s Mellow Mood drink sample giveaways.
We also hung out with the Marley ‘Relaxation Rebels’ Leigha and Carolina at the booth. It was interesting to find out that the company is not just selling beverages but is also making sure that the production methods and farming are done in a sustainable way. I asked how involved the Marley family actually is in this venture and Leigha said that the family is very involved with Rohan and Kymani serving as the main points of contact. Our photog also caught a pic of Sharon Marley’s son helping at the booth on the first night.
Summer Jam 2013 was a great concert that too few people experienced. The reasons for the low turnout were attributed to different things depending on who you spoke to but I encourage readers to look out for it next year as the venue and lineup offer a truly intimate musical experience and a chance to learn about some artists we may not be familiar with. If you enjoy live music, you will certainly enjoy Summer Jam.