BY PELLE GUNTHER Surprisingly there’s a place in this world for white kids to make beautiful reggae music, and apparently that place is New England. Joining The Expendables at the TLA was the fantastically progressive 8-piece reggae band from Massachusetts, John Brown’s Body. To say they stole the spotlight is understatement. Quite simply, they were the only reason that the night wasn’t entirely…expendable. They played a measly 45 minutes, chock full of the most trippy and beautiful electro-reggae music all accompanied by their brilliant brass section.
The singer was the only questionably-legitimate reggae addition to the band, if only due to his dreads, since his voice, when not forcing a remarkably good Jamaican accent, was very obviously American. The brass was made up of a saxophonist accompanied by a trumpet player, and a trombonist. The latter broke out the rare and elusive trombone solo on one of their last tunes, which solidified my undying love for him. The other members were classic, drum, bass, and guitar with the addition of their band’s geek, who twiddled his switches and played his technical gizmos and whatnot, adding a newer electronic and dub flavor to their already beautiful reggae music.
The Expendables on the other hand fulfilled every stereotypical white-kid-reggae cliché in the book. Scorching solos over skanked ska-punk tunes that could have been written by any west coast, surfer-teen ever to be born all held together by entirely unimpressive fake accents. Not to say they weren’t musically talented, in fact that was definitely their saving grace, with an amazingly talented drummer who shared the melodious tunes of his vocals while laying down some viciously complex beats. The guitar and bass players had some obvious talent too, those lessons back in high school finally paying off I suppose. But there was not an ounce of originality in the whole group.
A good portion of the crowd left post-JBB and the remaining fans, obviously enthused for the headliners, moshed the hearts out. After which belligerently drunk reggae fan felt the need to vent loudly in my face about the lack of dancing and the unwelcomed intensity of moshing, spewing tiny, anger filled droplets of saliva in the process. This occurrence was unfortunately the highlight of their set for me. In the end though it was not their music that killed them for me, but the sheer volume at which they chose to play. A level so deafening that after listening for as long as I could bare, my feet led me out the door and well away from their fake reggae rubbish. The whole night was an emotional rollercoaster, as John Brown’s Body gave me hope for the new age of reggae, just as quickly as the Expendables took it away.