WORDS AND PHOTOS BY: ALLISON SALMON
As soon as I entered the Fillmore on a late summer night in Philadelphia, the good vibes and high energy immediately rubbed off on me and I was ready for some reggae. There wasn’t much of a crowd at the venue yet, which was probably due to the fact that Pepper wouldn’t be on until around 10 o’clock, but that didn’t stop the first opening act from putting on a lively performance.
Darenots took the stage first and had the small crowd going wild. The four piece band utilized the entire stage running around and switching instruments, clearly not losing energy even though most people weren’t familiar with its songs. The music was not your traditional roots-reggae music; it was heavily hip-hop and rock influenced. The unique style kept the crowd intrigued and entertained throughout the set. Perhaps the most captivating part of the performance was the wildly talented artist who was painting on stage with the band to the beat of the music. By the time Darenots wrapped up, the artist created a beautiful painting.
As more fans started piling in, Fortunate Youth took the stage and brought a more chill vibe to the now congested venue. The six piece band brought the Southern California sound and persona to Philly, having the crowd feel light and peaceful for almost an hour. Fortunate Youth definitely took on more of a traditional sounding reggae, and it was evident that this was the type of music the people came here to see. I was particularly attracted towards to lead singer’s angelic voice and relaxed personality. Walking barefoot on stage with marijuana constantly in hand, vocalist Dan Kelly transitioned his calming set over to Pepper, who picked up the pace again with punk influenced reggae.
It was plain to see that the majority of the audience was there for Pepper. The band is comprised of singer and guitarist, Kaleo Wassman, drummer Yesod Williams, and Brett Bollinger on vocals and bass. The three piece band reigns from Hawaii and started doing its thing together in 1997. Since then, the guys have released 11 studio albums, their latest being ‘Ohana’ released in 2016. Pepper can make you feel as though you’re chilling out by the ocean in one song, and then make you feel as though you’re ready to go party with your friends in the next. The band incorporates sarcasm and sexual jabs in its lyrics, while simultaneously promoting peace and love for another.
The two frontmen somehow kept the reggae vibes alive while fans were head banging, mosh pitting, and crowd surfing to their upbeat heavily influenced punk rock sound. The most fascinating part about Pepper is how truly diverse and distinctive its sound is, and that’s why keeps fans coming back for more after 10 years of putting out albums and performing. Throughout the set, the two frontmen constantly reminded fans how much they adore Philly and enjoy the high energy from the crowd when they perform here. The highlight of the band’s set was “Give It Up.” Confetti fell from the ceiling as fans were chanting, “Baby get on your knees!”
My personal favorite from the band is “Stone Love” off the album Kona, which it performed a few songs in. The band stayed on stage for over an hour until it was time for Tribal Seeds to make their way out.
After a lengthy intermission of the stage getting set up for Tribal Seeds, the six piece band made its way out to perform. To my surprise, a majority of the crowd left, which allowed for me to snag a spot right up front against the railing. The heavily dreadlocked crew immediately took the vibe back to soothing reggae and had fans swaying and nodding their heads to the Jamaican sounds. The band is made up of Steven Rene Jacobo on lead vocals and guitar, bassist Victor Navarro, singer and guitarist Ryan Gonzo, Luis Castillo and Danny Lopilato on keyboards and vocals, and drummer Jamey “Zeb” Dekofsky. Tribal Seeds has been jamming out since 2005 and released five studio albums, its latest single being “Rude Girl,” which was the highlight of its set. The band generated a similar vibe as Fortunate Youth, but with a flare. Gonzo was using some sort of synthesizer to create sound effects, and every now and then the music would get a little more hardcore out of nowhere. The sound of the various instruments and keyboards together created a unique sound that kept my attention throughout the performance.
Overall, the four acts flowed so well together and the change in style and genre between each act made for an entertaining and dynamic show. The tour will be wrapping up over near the West Coast in the next month, so catch ‘em while you can!
Fortunate Youth Setlist:
Leave Me Alone
Till the End
Dial My Number
Love is the Most High
Start You Up
Give It Up