It was a great night for music: low humidity, a gentle breeze and a clear sky created the scene around The Note. The Note is a suitable venue to see local, as well as national, acts, and its location along one of the main streets in West Chester makes it a well-known hot spot (and yes, Bam Margera is there quite often too).
Now let me ask you a question. Are Bob Marley, Rebelution, Tribal Seeds, or Slightly Stoopid frequently being played on your iPod? If so, add Soldiers of Jah Army (SOJA) to that list.
The five-piece band, based out of the North Virginia/Washington D.C. area, stopped by The Note March 26 along with fellow D.C. artists Mambo Sauce for a night of good vibes and great music.
SOJA formed in 1997 with two founding members, Jacob Hemphill (vocals, guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass).
The two met in the first grade and instantly became best friends. Patrick O’Shea (keyboards), Ryan Berty (drums) and Ken Bownell (percussion) joined the two in middle/high school and the band was officially formed.
They all shared a common interest of rock and hip-hop, but “there was something missing,” said Hemphill.
They began to focus on their favorite artists, Marley and Peter Tosh, and loved how every song they sang was about something “beautiful that truly mattered in every song.”
Opening for SOJA was Mambo Sauce. A quick glance at their Last.fm page reveals a soul, hip-hop and salsa band crossed with rock and roll.
Mambo sauce (not the band), for those of you who don’t know, is a mysterious red sauce similar to barbecue, but sweet and tangy, famous to the D.C. area.
The band consists of Grammy-nominated keyboardist Christian Wright, Patricia Little (drums), Khari Pratt (bass), Jermaine Cole (percussionist), Alfred “Black Boo” Duncan (vocals) and Jol “JC” Carter (vocals).
The band has its share of moments in the spotlight, winning numerous awards, including Best Current Song in 2007 for their song called “Miracles” by 93.9 WKYS.
SOJA’s most recent studio album, “Born in Babylon”, was released August 25 of last year and was available at the merchandise stand during the show along with t-shirts and stickers. Mambo Sauce had merchandise as well. Unfortunately, the first time Mambo Sauce stepped onto the stage, they didn’t begin playing.
They were having trouble with the volume settings on their instruments and it took a good 25 minutes for The Note’s crew to fix the problem. Eventually, Mambo Sauce began their performance.
The band had a fantastic stage presence, despite the inability of the sound crew to accurately fix whatever issues were occuring.
At times the keyboards were ear-splittingly loud, and often you could barely hear JC as she belted out into her microphone on stage.
But the individual talent of the members of M-Sauce was evident multiple times as Chris Wright would dazzle the audience with his quick transitions and rhythms and the Mambo Sauce’s MC, “Black Boo” kept the house jumping or singing along to the songs.
After a quick adjustment of the sound and stage equipment, it was time for SOJA.
The crowd erupted as the band appeared on stage, dreads and all, and immediately got into it. The crowd loved every minute of it, jumping up and down, swaying side to side, or doing the head nod. The band had included two more members for the tour: Rafael Rodriguez (trumpet) and Hellman Escorcia (saxophone) who added greatly to the overall sound.
One song favored by the crowd was “To Whom It May Concern” which features blaring horns as well as Jefferson’s unique deep Jamaican-style vocals.
SOJA were clearly veterans of the stage. Their music, well reggae music in general, can always lift your spirits if you’re feeling down, and for being my first reggae show, I enjoyed the music very much (the majority of the crowd again wasn’t attentive which distracting from the show).
SOJA played a solid show, promising much of the new album, but playing their hits as well.
Check out “Open My Eyes” and “Rasta Courage” if you’re interested in hearing some Marley-influenced reggae from Soldiers of Jah Army.
Mike Sheehan is a third year student majoring in respiratory therapy. He can be reached at MS656728@wcupa.edu.