Date: Saturday, February 25th, 2012
Line up: SOJA, The Movement, Anuhea
Location: Ogden Theatre. Denver, CO
Saturday night was a special night for reggae-rock music. Those of us lucky enough to live in Denver, CO were witness to several “firsts” for one of the genre’s biggest bands. Saturday was the first time reggae-rockers SOJA had ever performed an acoustic set at a record store—my personal favorite, Independent Records; it was also the band’s first performance at the historic Ogden Theatre; and, the most important “first” of them all, was that SOJA had handpicked the venue for their first live video recording on the mainland with the help of No Coast TV.
For those of you not familiar with the Ogden Theatre, let me give you the quick rundown. First, the Ogden Theatre is old—it was built in 1919. Second, the theatre holds about 1,300 music lovers. Third, the theatre has recently hosted the likes of reggae-rock king’s The Dirty Heads and Pepper, as well as the Expendables and Ballyhoo!. Fourth, the Ogden Theatre is home to over 150 concerts a year and is frequently one of the top ticket selling venues in the country. Fifth, the Ogden is hands down the best indoor venue in Denver, and probably all of Colorado. Separate from all these facts, let’s just say the Ogden is an important stop in any band’s musical journey and will now go down in reggae-rock music history as “the place where SOJA recorded a live DVD.”
Fellow Pier collaborator Michael Patti and I arrived at the venue around 8:30 p.m.—just prior to the first opener Anuhea. The Hawaiian native recently released her second album, “For Love,” on Valentine’s Day 2012. Anuhea stood on the Ogden’s massive stage with just her guitar, as the stage lights directed the audience’s attention directly on her. Anhuea started her set with a bit of love—namely “Come Over Love” and “Looking For Love.” She ended with an inspired version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” bridged with a Lauryn Hill verse.
Anuhea’s set was stripped down and straight forward—“just her and a guitar,” as they say. I have always found that if you really want to find out how talented a musician is, listen to them play their songs as they were written—solo and acoustic. However, there are obvious risks for any musician without a backing band, as an acoustic guitar is unforgiving. Over the last six years I have seen hundreds of live shows and have witnessed many opening acts get swallowed up by large crowds and the dull roar of the chatting bar crowd. However, this was not the case for Anuhea. Her charisma and natural stage presence kept the crowd’s attention throughout her set. For Anuhea, the risk paid off.
Accompanying her on tour is her brother Jordan Jenkins, who is helping with the handling of the merchandise as well as hustling his own clothing line representing the 50th state of Hawaii. The name of the clothing line is 50th State of Mind and you can grab a shirt by catching a show on the tour!
A funny note from her set was when she was introducing “Simple Love Song” on stage and was giving advice to the guys in the crowd to pull their pretty Wahine (Hawaiian word for woman) close to them and to “grab her left titty while I play this next jam!” The audience was in disbelief laughter and midway through the song, she broke away from the lyrics to remind the guys to once again “Grab her left titty”. Hilarious!
The Movement took to the stage next and played for about 30 minutes. Before starting the set, lead singer Jordan Miller said to the crowd, “We only have 30 minutes, so we aren’t going to talk at all.” As expected, they delivered a high energy set from start to finish. The Movement even showcased a new song, “Area”, that carried a heavy hip hop influence. The song will be featured on the band’s third full length album, “One More Night,” which is set to release on March 20, 2012. The Movement’s drummer Gary Jackson shared with me after the show that the band is ecstatic about the release of the new album, especially after the year long process to get the album released. The Ogden show was the band’s last show until the album drops. The Movement will hit the road again in a couple weeks after “One More Night” releases for their “One More Night Tour”.
Michael Patti spent time with lead vocalist/guitarist, Jordan Miller, and had a chance to hear a few sneak peaks of the new album with new song “Using My Head” being Jordans personal favorite from the forthcoming release. They’ve released 2 songs off the album for FREE via their social networking sites with “Mr. Policeman” and “Something To Say”.
Shortly before SOJA took to the stage I made my way to the photo pit. While waiting I had the chance to talk with several SOJA fans. After exchanging the usual introductions, I asked one of the star struck young ladies in the front row, “Is this your first SOJA show?” She quickly responded, “No way! This is my eleventh show. I went to my first show when I was sixteen and my Dad had to sneak me in.” She then pulled out her phone to show me her most prized possession—a picture of her posing with (lead singer) Jacob Hemphill. She said, “See…he’s smiling. He never smiles in pictures.”
I overheard fans comparing SOJA concert “war stories,” that included long waits in line, bad weather and the best live version of the band’s song, “Revolution.” I quickly realized that unlike a lot of bands, SOJA has a legitimate “army” of loyalists that truly love everything about the band—from Hemphill’s smile, to bassist Bobby Lee’s (dread) locks, to the band’s amazing horn section. SOJA’s fans know the band’s influences, the stories behind the songs and names of each band member. In most cases, I would chalk this up to “crazy fans”—you know the ones, that Facebook stalk, and probably stalk for real. However, the fact that every fan I talked to was as equally knowledgeable makes me think that SOJA’s fan base is comprised of “professional” fans. To me, this is benchmark for any band that wants to be around for a long time—just ask the Deadheads.
The night belonged to SOJA. They started off the set with “Mentality.” The set featured several songs off their new album “Strength to Survive,” including “Slow Down,” “Gone Today,” and my personal favorite “Not Done Yet.” The highlight of the set was rock-heavy “Revolution” that seamlessly transitioned into “To Whom It May Concern,” which featured a rap interlude by bassist Bobby Lee and drummer Ryan Berty literally jumping out of his seat to hit the cymbals.
Throughout the show, Hemphill made reference to choosing the Ogden Theatre and Denver, CO for the band’s first recorded show, because SOJA knew Denver would not disappoint. As musicians, SOJA’s horn section made-up of saxophonist Hellman Escorcia and Trumpet-master Rafael Rodriguez who are most impressive. They have the ability to fill each song just enough without taking over. In addition to their great musicianship, they both have an engaging stage presence. I don’t think I want to hear another SOJA song without the horn section—they are that good.
Reflecting on the night, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be part of such a great day—starting with the acoustic set at Independent Records, where I had the opportunity to photograph about a hundred loyal fans with Hemphill. The night ended with SOJA’s first ever recorded live show on the mainland courtesy of No Coast TV. The night was not only “history in the making” for SOJA, and a great milestone for the band, it was also a great night for reggae-rock, as a genre.
Anuhea Set List
Come Over Love
Looking For Love
It’s Not The Same
Simple Love Song
Higher Than The Clouds
The Movement Set List:
Area (New Song)
SOJA Set List:
Rest of My Life
Strength to Survive
Here I Am
Decide Your Gone
I Don’t Wanna Wait
Let You Go
Open My Eyes
To Whom It May Concern
You and Me
Not Done Yet
You Don’t Know Me
When We Were Younger
Article & Photos By: Kit Chalberg
-Read Mike Patti’s Concert Article w/Photos from later on in the night when SOJA played with The Movement & Anuhea at The Ogden Theatre. You can read the article by clicking HERE
More Photos From The Night…