The crowd that showed up for the Hawaii-based reggae artist's Fort Lauderdale show at Culture Room was the perfect combination of cool, calm, and collected. No scene kids. No ravers. Just a bunch of 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings chilling to some Island-style, R&B-inflected reggae.
Since hitting the number-one spot on the reggae charts with his second studio album, Backyard Boogie, Jerry “J Boog” Afemata has been on a touring frenzy, supporting The Green and even doing a recent run with Soja. In March, J Boog set out to headline his own Keep Di Road Dusty tour, for which he'll be hitting 16 states with 30 shows, playing alongside Hawaii’s Inna Vision, as well as Westafa. The tour has traveled down the East Coast, with several stops in Florida, and it will continue to California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado before — after a week playing across the Midwest — ending in Vermont.
On Friday, the South Florida gig was slated to start at 7:30 p.m., but the stage — and a majority of the main room — remained empty until about 8:30 p.m., when opening act Inna Vision finally stepped out. This energetic trio, consisting of lead singer Koa Lopes, drummer Calvin Canha, and guitarist Kama Kane immediately set the tone for the evening, asking the crowd if they were ready to rock out to some reggae.
"Where are all my Bob Marley fans tonight? Let's see everybody's hands in the air,” Lopes said. "We've got one life to live. Let’s make it a good one."
Known as Maui’s first reggae band, Inna Vision has recorded and released four albums on its independent label, Cultural Vision Maui. During the show, Lopes, Canha, and Kane played a short intro, followed by most of their most popular songs, including “Positive Ions,” “Find a Way,” “East End,” and “Inspiration."
Just after 9 p.m., Afemata took the stage. Not your average reggae artist, the six-foot Samoan came out with the swagger of a gangster and the voice of an angel. The Compton native — who's shared stages with artists like Damian Marley, Ziggy Marley, and Rebelution — delivered an energetic arrived to a suddenly full room and opened with two hit songs off his Backyard Boogie album.
The crowd came alive, as almost everyone in the audience sang along to the uplifting beats of "Sunshine Girl" and "Every Little Thing.” This wasn't the place for moshing, jumping, screaming, or shouting. The fans were chill. Maybe heavily sedated. Or stoned. Yeah, they were probably stoned.
Halfway through the show, Afemata paused to say a few words.
"We've been touring cities back to back, and I thought it was time to take you on a trip back to the garage,” he said. "I'm going to play one of the first songs I ever wrote."
The show cooled down with a few throwback jams from Afemata's early days and a series of tranquil songs off his breakout 2007 album, Hear Me Roar. No one really seemed to know the words to those deep cuts, so the band dropped a few hints to help the more vocal audience members chime in.
When it was all over, everyone moved outside where members of Inna Vision, J Boog, and his entourage mingled with fans in Culture Room's outdoor courtyard, signing merchandise and posing for group pictures. No one wanted to leave, and the crowd wouldn't clear. If only those chill reggae vibes could last forever.
Nicole Danna is a food and music writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. Follow her @SoFloNicole.