It Feels like Summer with Passafire at the Neighborhood Theater
The Longshot Tour
Written by Stephanie Cunningham | Photos by Alesha Jenkins
Foregoing my jacket on a chilly Autumn evening in Charlotte, I waited outside the Neighborhood Theater in NoDa this past Thursday. Passafire, from Savannah, GA, was bringing their reggae sounds to a busy music night in the city; alt-rockers, The Shins, and rapper, Jay-Z, were adding their own musical soundtrack to the night in nearby venues. After making us wait well past the scheduled opening, the Neighborhood staff finally let us in to be warmed up.
The show was on the intimate bar stage at the front of the Theater. The openers for the show were a young group of guys from Wilmington, NC, Elephant Convoy. They hit the stage right at 8 p.m. and had a small crowd of fans up at the front dancing and getting the party started. Elephant Convoy set the mood for the show with a variety of slower jams and some sing-alongs. The two singers, Mike Eakins and Javier Rodriguez, produced some excellent harmonies for a solid 35 minute set, while the crowd grew larger and the buzz for Passafire got louder.
One reason Passafire stands out from other reggae groups is that they add some heavier guitar riffs in their songwriting, so one moment you feel like you’re on vacation somewhere tropical and the next minute you’re in a dive bar ready to head bang. They opened their set with the song “Drifter” from their new album Longshot, which takes you to both that tropical island and the dive bar in just under three minutes. The set seemed to slow down a bit after the first song, maybe for the group to get in a groove or feel out the crowd.
Pretty sure that half-way through the set they got the entire Neighborhood Theaters’ audience and staff’s (and even some passer-byers outside the windows) full attention back when there was a full instrumental change-up. Guitar and keys player, Mike DeGuzman, pulled out a keytar and began to do nothing less than shred. I’ve rarely seen a keytar on stage and it made DeGuzman, who’s of a smaller stature, seem like a rock god giant.
At the same time, Ted Browne, guitar and lead vocals, and Will Kubley, bass, switched instruments with each other and showed they are not limited to playing just one instrument as well. Clearly the energy was charged on stage and they guys were all having a great time. The feeling was contagious and the audience ate it up.
Before the evening began, I got to go back to the Green Room and meet the guys in Passafire. Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I asked the group what they were thankful for. After a few seconds of panic and various grumbling, Browne said that family was what they were most thankful for, but “also for the fans who validate what we’re doing.” They all agreed.
I thought about this answer as I watched their performance and I think they really got the best of both world at this show. In the crowd were members of local reggae bands, Of Good Nature and Sun-dried Vibes, and a lot of really happy fans singing all the lyrics; not literal family, but a musical one. For a band who knows success is a long shot, seems like they’re doing just fine.
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