Under the vast blanket of rock music, you don’t typically attend a show and find urgently pleading “emo” shoe gazers followed by a loud, raw metal band in combat boots singing about any number of unprintable things. Both are classed as rock and roll, but they simply don’t go together and they certainly don’t attract the same crowd. But in reggae, the room for a cohesive show seems to grow when multiple takes on the genre are included on the same bill.
Still a devout fan of Ugly Lion, I caught them last Saturday as they wrapped up their late summer tour with a homecoming show at the legendary Trees in Deep Ellum, and I was treated to multiple interpretations of what reggae is. Here are three local reggae acts you should look into – especially if you’re not a fan of the uber-traditional variety.
The Effinays. “I like a lot of Latin flare in reggae,” said Jeremy “Pan Blanco” Piering, bassist for The Effinays. That Latin flare fits in somewhere with their funky brand of dance hall-style reggae, complete with a brass section. Piering said The Effinays add laughter and color to the somewhat underground scene, a scene he optimistically said is budding. These guys have a six-song demo out, which might sound like the opening credits to a 70s cop show during one intro, but will ultimately make you get up and dance around your own living room.
Bum Lucky. The more bare bones style of Dub Reggae is three-piece outfit Bum Lucky’s strong suit. While their offering is a bit more self-reflective, lyrically the message is, true to form, one of positivity. “It’s not about the hand you’re dealt, but what you do with it,” said front man Mike Richardson. “We’ve got a protest song or two,” bassist John Houge assured me, “but most of it is based on personal experience.” After only a year and a half as a working band, Bum Lucky has shared a stage with notable acts like Tribal Seeds and the Fort Worth-based Katsuk. I’d argue that they’re better in person than on the un-mastered version of their EP (due out in late September) that they passed out on Saturday.
Ugly Lion. When Jamaica was struggling for independence from England in the 60s, the Rastafari found a voice in Roots Rock Reggae, a form of protest music. “West Coast Reggae is about Cali life, and since I don’t live that, I can’t write that. I’ve been fighting my own battle my whole life, so I found myself in the ‘Roots,’” said Ugly Lion lead singer Brandon Chustz. With rhetoric characteristic of a revolution and instrumentation to match this five-piece, they still manage to get everyone dancing.
It’s true the scope of the reggae scene in Dallas is not enormous, but what it lacks in size it seems to make up for in addictively solid talent and consistently nice people. While there isn’t a venue in town dedicated specifically to reggae, there are efforts underway to bolster the 3rd Annual Dallas Reggae Festival, which will be held in September at Joe Pool Lake. You can check out all the band̓s plans via Facebook.