[Photo by Josh Gest]
Thursday, February 16th was a wild night at the Neptune Theatre. That evening, Seattle welcomed some of the biggest current names in reggae: J Boog, Jemere Morgan, and Jo Mersa Marley. My adventure didn’t start with the show, though; doors opened near 7:30 p.m., but I arrived at 4:30 to have a talk with Jemere Morgan, son of Gramps Morgan and grandson of Denroy Morgan, all of whom are talented reggae musicians. I got boba since I was so early, and then waited half-inside a windy doorway for Morgan to be ready. When the time came, we stepped into the quietest place we could find (the tour bus) and started chatting. Aside from being absolutely starstruck, I was incredibly pleased to find Jemere a humble, down-to-earth guy. He had some great thoughts for me about his family, his recent album and its success, and his plans for the future. My special thanks to Jemere for his time and everyone who made the meeting possible. Check out the interview below.
In light my post-interview daze and non-stop gushing about Jemere, I realized that I still had a show to attend. Inside the theater was an array of red, yellow, and green lights and smoke effects, to which eventually included a hint of marijuana as the night went on. Jemere was up first at around 8:30 p.m., and he kicked off the show with a few tracks off of his newest album, Transition, released January 6, 2017. His sound consists of pop, hip-hop, and R&B elements, mixed with traditional reggae beats and rhythm. His performance was truly feel-good. Most of his songs are upbeat (see “Neighborhood Girl” or “Try Jah Love”), and some are even downright uplifting, like the album’s title track, “Transition.” Jemere performed the songs passionately. Even the ones that weren’t tempo-heavy, like “Good Old Roots,” still made everyone feel like swaying with the beat. I readily admit to enjoying Jemere’s set the most (sorry, J Boog fans), but that’s mostly because I could sing along to his songs the best.
I originally hadn’t dedicated much attention to Jo Mersa Marley, but he had a major role in the show. To start off his set, Jo Mersa played some of his grandfather’s classics, including “Three Little Birds” and “One Love,” which both got everyone moving with feeling. These were naturally my favorite performances of his, but Jo Mersa’s own music wasn’t bad, either; though more heavily hip-hop influenced than Jemere’s or J Boog’s, his live sound was plenty soulful, even if he wasn’t much of a performer. He swayed a bit and moved around on stage, but didn’t have the engaging motions that Jemere and J Boog did. Hearing some classics from Jo Mersa more than made up for this, however, and his performance was very enjoyable overall.
After two performances and two long musical breaks, my bag and borrowed camera were getting heavy, it was getting hot on the floor, and I was ready to see the main event. At around 10:30 p.m., with some suspense, J Boog finally made his way to the stage wearing a hoodie, following behind his band and backup singers. He threw off his hood only semi-dramatically and got his set started. My expectations for his performance were more cloudy than for Jemere’s or Jo Mersa’s, but I had heard from his hit songs like “Let’s Do It Again” and “Blaze It For Days”. His smooth, earthy voice were perfect for his catchy melodies. “Boogie,” as some call him, sang his hits alongside tracks from his Wash House Ting album, which was released on November 16, 2016. Ting is a varied project with a heavy funk and R&B presence. While many songs of Boog’s aren’t orthodox reggae, he showed his Samoan roots with sparkling instrumentals, tropical beats, and all that soul in his voice. Towards the end of the performance, Jemere returned to the stage and gave a heartfelt duet alongside J Boog, which completed the night for me.
J Boog played until almost midnight, and my back, neck, and feet hurt from heavy bags and bad shoes, but I was left thoroughly moved by such a talented group of artists (and not to mention my literally breathtaking interview with Jemere earlier in the evening). My first experience with reggae was beyond satisfying, and left me, above all, feeling good.
JOSH GEST | “Let’s get together and feel alright” | KXSU Radio Reporter