Layovers don’t have to be painful. Recently, on a long wait between flights, I was lucky enough to catch northern California based Groundation, playing a sort of homecoming show at the independent. They had just finished up a U.S. Tour and were happy to be home.
Leading the way in a resurgence of Roots Reggae on the West Coast USA, the band has cultivated a large following around the western world.
Fronted by the enigmatic Harrison Stafford, the band uses only the same instruments as were present in the first wave reggae of Jamaica. “No digital, we don’t work with synthesizers. Just like in the 1970s we stick to that format.”
The music’s flow centers on the spiritual side of life with a definite Rastafarian style. Although strongly planted in the fundamentals of earlier reggae artists, the progressive fusion style of Groundation, smoothly meshes jazz and Latin styles with roots and dub reggae.
Where many bands are often made to spotlight the lead artist, Groundation is a collaboration of unique, inspired musicians. The concert randomly weaves it way through spectacular jazz style trumpet and trombone solos adding a soulful energy to the crowd. Drums and percussion jump to the forefront as the rhythms take hold. The bass line and the keyboard tones guided me throughout the show.
The chorus girls, often a dancing sideshow in many bands, take the limelight, directing the show with soulfully deep vocals and solos. The individually harmonic, almost shaman like, voice of the lead singer, rivals some of legends of reggae.
I’ve been listening to reggae music since my childhood and have seen some of the greats during my life. This slightly chilled night in San Francisco with two of my best friends, we experienced Groundation perform as complete musical experience.” It was undoubtedly one of the best reggae shows I have ever attended.