For the Benefit of the Victims of Las Vegas: Irie Roots Jam

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The month of October started on a very tragic note as 58 people lost their lives in yet another mass shooting. The Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festivals was, like all other music events, meant to be a night for music lovers to get together and experience a sense of community and bond through music. In the wake of this mass shooting, people are doing everything they can to support and aid the victims. On Saturday, October 7th, Irie Roots Extracts hosted the Irie Roots Jam at Gators 3 in Apple Valley. Originally intended to be a promotion for Irie Roots Extracts’ products as well as a show for reggae lovers and more, the event quickly turned into a charity event in response to the tragic shooting is Las Vegas.

Featuring Fortunate Youth along with local acts The Twenty Dollar Prophets, Dubious Distinction, Dubsiders, Swift Sonorous, Rain Brings WeatherThe Rezinators, and the Muppet Hunters, the show was a great mix of reggae, hip-hop, and hard rock. It was a solid lineup of bands that created a mellow (and smoky) atmosphere that was slightly tainted by the cause it was now promoting. Singer Chris Gonzales of the Twenty Dollar Prophets assured me that once cost were covered, all the proceeds would go to the victims of Las Vegas, “Events cost money to put on and you know, once we surpass our cost, then one hundred percent of the profits is gonna go to the victims of Las Vegas.”

Gonzales felt very somber when talking about the events in Las Vegas. Mass shootings are becoming more common place in the United States (if you look up “mass shooting” on Wikipedia, the U.S. has so many notable mass shootings that they are categorized by years dating back to 1929, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre). Needless to say, hearing someone was shot and killed isn’t that far out of the norm as Gonzales pointed out, “People get killed every day in the streets, you know what I mean. You come to the High Desert, man, I could tell you a friend of the friend lost somebody last night.”

His point, however, wasn’t to diminish to tragic event, but to put an emphasis on where it took place and how that affects him as a musician, “it’s not even just this tragedy, but the fact that, you know, that fact that it happened at a music concert hurts me because… it just goes against everything that music symbolizes, which is unity and people coming together for one reason, you know what I mean. They didn’t go there for that, so my heart is out to those families.”

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Josh Jordan of the Muppet Hunters called the whole thing “senseless” as he elaborated the shrewd politics that were becoming involved in the media rhetoric, “the media wants to tag it like they were Trump supporters, but who knows who voted for who in that crowd. They were innocent bystanders there for the love of music… … they came to an awesome concert and might have left scarred for life and that’s just not right.”

Certainly, if you were compare a concertgoer from Route 91 Harvest to one of the individuals that attended the Irie Roots Jam, you might encounter two people with radically different backgrounds, upbringings and political views, but what they have in common is a love for music. Yes, reggae and country music are two very different genres, but none of that mattered on Saturday night. The Irie Roots Jam ceased to be just a concert for fans of reggae and became a charity event to raise money for those who were affected by this tragedy. It also served as a message to anyone who has now developed a fear of public events like this.

“Music events are supposed to be positive and awesome,” Travis of Fortunate Youth said, “Every time I’ve been to an event, it’s like you’re just stoked to go and now it’s like, I was down in my hometown fair, down in Manhattan Beach, walking around with a bunch of- hundreds of people, very close quarters and I was like, ‘woo, you never know like who could be, or what could happen’ or anything like that.”

Fear of public, outdoor events that may turn into a spot for mass shooters was something that, 15 years ago, only the most paranoid would be afraid of, but it’s becoming a very real fear. Travis made sure to emphasize that we shouldn’t be afraid, though, “this is our lifestyle… …it’s sad, I just hope people can really realize that it’s gonna be a lot better to come together than fight each other.”

The profits of the night aren’t the only money that is going to the victims of Las Vegas. Adam, one of the owners of Irie Roots Extracts, stated that he is having his vendors, both local and outside the High Desert, keep track of the sales of their cartridges, “they’re gonna track sales through the month of October and for each cartridge sold, they’re gonna report back to us and we’re gonna donate some of the proceeds from the cartridges as well to the victims of Vegas.”

– b. d. ponce

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Why Does Music Matter?

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In the wake of recent tragedies and the passing of great musicians, the rest of us are left to take stock of the things that really matter to us. For many of us, music is that answer. On September 29th, before some of those tragedies took place, Tonight Shall Rise, Kings Trio, Twenty Dollar Prophets, Rain Brings Weather and Back on Our Feet all gathered at Frogees to show what mattered to them. The name of the event was simply “Music Matters”.

It seems a little extravagant to say, but in the age of declining album sales and the rise of novelty pop songs born out of viral marketing, it is easy to take music for granted. These five bands, however, know exactly what music means to them and want nothing more than to share it with everyone in the High Desert.

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Kicking off the evening was punk act Back on Our Feet, the relative newcomers of the night. The group is making waves with their polished brand of punk rock that is very tight and full of energy. When I asked guitarist and singer Daniel Deccio what drives them to preform, he said “we wanna make it musically sound for everyone, as well as ourselves. It’s something that we’re actually proud of and everybody can say, ‘damn, that was actually a good show’, you know?”

Following Back on Out Feet was Rain Brings Weather, a group that I have covered a few times on this blog before, but every time I see them, they deliver the same passionate performance they have become known for. I spoke with front man and guitarist Dewey B. Weather after his performance and asked him one simply question: How does music matter to you?

I wasn’t trying to be a troll, I genuinely wanted to know each person’s perspective on music and why it was important to them. I know asking a bunch of musicians why music matters to them is as redundant as asking a NFL player why football is important to them, but who better to ask than those who spend all their time thinking about and writing music. I caught up with Dewey and Chris Gonzalez of the Twenty Dollar Prophets to put forth this question.

“It means the world to me and it’s everything for me,” said Dewey, “It helps me escape, it helps me express and it just helps me turn my experiences into expression, which is sometimes the hardest thing to do is just express what’s inside of yourself and I’m not good at that. I like to have fun and be positive and be a happy go lucky guy, but when I get on stage and I play my music, that’s when the hate comes out and that’s the hardest to actually release and escape from, so music does that for me and that’s it.”

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Chris Gonzalez’s answer had a succinct message about the unity the music offers, “music matters to me because everybody in this world feels music and loves it and relates to it, so without music, life would be fucking boring. That’s why it matters. That’s it.”

Kings Trio kept the evening rolling with an extended drum solo from Matt Christensen while front man James Gonzalez stepped out for a bit. When I asked the two of them the question of the day, Christensen echoed Chris Gonzalez sentiment on bringing people together, “Music is the keystone to life. Every culture has songs and if every culture is doing the same thing in a different variation, it’s gotta mean something to a lot of people and what it means to me personally is that it’s a way to get close to people I would have never met in my life.”

James of King’s Trio followed up by saying, “Music is from the heart, so as soon as it hits everybody and they feel it, then it either shows everyone how the world is, or it just brings everybody together, dude, you know and that’s definitely from the heart. Music, to us, it just life.”

The main organizers of the event were Tonight Shall Rise, with the bulk of the effort falling on guitarist Randy Blount. When I asked why name the show “Music Matters”, Blount said, “Noticing how much music matters to people nowadays, it’s a release of anger, hate, love and all that kind of stuff and we’re noticing that the music scene is getting stronger and music matters to everybody nowadays. Doesn’t matter if its reggae, rock, metal, we all come together as one in ‘Music Matters’.”

Tonight Shall Rise Front woman TINK offered her own perspective about coming together as a group, “It really just kinda like pulls me out of the dumps for the most part and like just writing music and even just listening to different types of music affects me a lot, so it’s a really an emotional experience to be able to write music, get together and play music with good people”

No matter the reason, music will always play an important part in our lives. It is the manifestation of cultural identity that is able to cross language barriers and politics. Two people of radically different upbringings, lifestyles and political backgrounds are able to connect by simply liking one song together. That is the power of music and it is what drives these five bands, as well as all the other bands in the High Desert and beyond, to write and perform.  Moving forward, it is important to reflect on these simple pleasures and why they matter.

-b.d. ponce