John Brown’s Body wins over fans with blend of rock, reggae, dubstep

In the small concert hall, the crowd was in a state of relaxed anticipation as the band slowly got ready on stage.

“The last couple shows here were rocking,” said Tommy Benedetti, drummer of John Brown’s Body. “I see good things for this evening.”

In the five minutes before they started, large groups came swarming into the building, coats falling off of overloaded hooks on the wall. Finally, amid the excited chatter, John Brown’s Body began to play.

John Brown’s Body kicked off their New England area tour at The Westcott Theater Friday at 11 p.m. Opening for the band were House on a Spring and Root SHOCK.

The music’s vibrations went through the walls and shook each person’s body, their song “Ameliorate” gaining energy in a steady crescendo. The crowd, now about 500-members large, began moving in gentle currents back and forth, listening to the well-known band.

Elliot Martin, the band’s lead singer, stepped to the front of the stage with his dreadlocks whipping the air.

“How you feeling tonight?” he yelled to the crowd, who responded with a crashing wave of cheers and whistles.

Martin began singing in powerful bursts with “Invitation,” which strengthened as the song went on. The music came in a steady, powerful stream of reggae and dubstep, with soulful lyrics and rapid beats that quickly absorbed the crowd.

As the blue stage lights reflected onto the band and their instruments, the audience swayed as the music washed over them. Martin threw his hand in the air, and the crowd rippled.

“It’s rootsie reggae, but it’s still upbeat,” said Mooney Faugh, a member of Subsoil, a band that has opened for the band in the past. “Party Reggae with a message: Peace.”

John Brown’s Body is noted for their music’s unconventional blend of old and new. When it was first formed in 1995, the band’s music focused on old-school reggae. As they grew, the band steadily became more progressive and incorporated more modern elements into their music, such as dubstep.

The band members refer to their style as “future roots music.”

Erica Den, a friend of the band’s keyboardist Jon Petronzio, said while she enjoys seeing the band evolve and the music change, she still enjoys the old-school aspects the most.

“They’re not totally infiltrated with all dub yet,” Den said. “They still maintain that old Reggae feel.”

Den said she has known the band for 15 years, and says their relationship is different from many other groups, whose members often go in different directions from each other. She says all of them show a steady commitment, and are great musicians as well as great people to be around.

“They seem to be on the same page,” Den said with a smile. “And really, really truly enjoy what they do.”

Two longtime fans living outside of Syracuse, Corinne Smith and Fawn Granno, were excited to hear John Brown’s Body play.

Smith said she followed the band’s shows when they played in Ithaca, where the band originated. She had been a friend of the band while she was a college student in Oswego, and heard them play many times.

“Incredible, as always,” she said, describing her expectations of tonight’s show. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

At the end of the concert, the energized audience still wanted more.

Their next show will be in the band’s hometown of Ithaca at a nightclub called The Haunt. The band will then perform several more shows in New York before moving on to Burlington, Vt. Their Midwest tour, including stops in Colorado and Utah, will begin in early February.

While this isn’t their first time at The Westcott, Benedetti said they will likely play there again in the future.

He also said he was looking forward to future shows coming up after The Westcott, feeling fully rested after a tour in the Southeast that went from South Carolina to Florida. Having just come from Boston, he was excited to get back on stage after a few weeks of rest.

Said Benedetti: “It’s like being in a huge rocket ship, playing up there. Three piece horns, huge bass, keyboard, so it’s a lot of sound coming at people.”


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