Review and photographs by Tony Contini
There were zombies crawling past the packed the Reno Knitting Factory for SOJA on Saturday.
Reggae fans were crammed in both levels of the venue, some swaying lighters, others shouting for pens to get their ukuleles signed.
SOJA is an eight-piece band from Virginia. It headlined a tour that hit Reno and is now headed to major California locations. The band’s fifth album, 2014’s “Amid Noise and Haste,” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and frontman Jacob Hemphill told Tahoe Onstage he before the show he has 17 songs written for the next record.
The group overflowed with energy, often jumping off amps and ledges. Guitarist Trevor Young has a stencil of himself in mid-flight with dreads swinging on his amp.
It mixed down-tempo feel-good reggae with hard rock. Young has chops similar to Tim Mahoney of 311, killer tone and descending scales.
Five-string bassist Bob Jefferson seemed to pack the most Rasta into his skill set. With his dreads now clipped, he superficially can be found in any pop-punk band, but when he puts on the shades and drops his voice an octave, he could be sampled on a Major Lazer track. He easily could have gotten away with saying the word “ragamuffin” a few times.
Hemphill came off very enlightened. The dreads are strong with this one.
Some songs hit harder than others, but like a majority of bands with a horn section, there were moments that clicked and vibes that elated the crowd. The horns sounded best when providing melodies instead of stabs.
Reno was in rare form and covered with beer-crawl participants. It was brisk outside, but the venue was hot. You couldn’t tell by the smiles on the babies, who ears were protected by giant headgear.