With touring indefinitely halted, minus the exception of the occasional drive-in show and performances prohibited in most parts of the country due to restrictions on group gatherings, musicians have tried to remain sharp, keep fans engaged and maybe scrounge up some income by putting together live streams. Immediately sensing the havoc this pandemic would wreak on the music industry, Rootfire sprang into action and began hosting live performances on March 15. This allowed artists to reach a greater audience beyond solely promoting through their own channels, while providing a go-to website where reggae fans could tune in daily to view live performances as well as interact directly with their favorite musicians via Q&A sessions.
Over the course of the year, Rootfire TV has broadened its programming to include a number of recurring series like The Reggae Podclash, Music & Criminal Justice Reform, Music Business Club, The Lighting Roundtable, oftentimes curating reggae-specific documentaries and more.
To that end, on Christmas night, Rootfire TV will stream a previously-recorded performance by the Washington D.C. area Beatles tribute act, Yellow Dubmarine, who perform Fab Four songs in a reggae style.
“This holiday release is intended as a replacement for our annual holiday show at The Hamilton in D.C., which is canceled this year due to COVID,” said bass player and vocalist, Aaron Glaser. “Our annual holiday show has always been about celebrating The Beatles, the holidays and each other. This video is meant as a way to carry on this tradition in the face of the pandemic.”
While lockdown-induced live streams have often treated fans to intimate glimpses into the private homes of their favorite musicians, the backdrop for this special Yellow Dubmarine performance is truly one-of-a-kind. Despite its genesis as a holiday tradition, as an antithesis from typical seasonally-themed content, rather than Christmas lights and other seasonal decorations amidst a snowy winter backdrop, Yellow Dubmarine performs in the middle of a sunflower field! (After all, what is more summertime than a sunflower?)
Recorded several months earlier, Glaser said “It was the first time we had been able to play together since before the pandemic started about 6 months prior. Given the size of our band, it had been tough to find a place where we could play socially-distanced.”
Close friends of the band, the Butler family of Butler’s Orchard, created their unique performance space by carving out a section of the vast field of sunflowers on their property, a Germantown, Maryland farm that grows 23 different varieties of fruits and vegetables and features a year-round produce market and bakery.
“It was a special setting to play music,” said Glaser, adding that “Our good friends Daniel Schwartz and Jason Burdette were able to provide the sound and video production. We really have been blessed to be surrounded by good and talented people.”
Yellow Dubmarine, who features members of the The Loving Paupers, another D.C. area reggae band that Rootfire has featured during 2020, started in 2008 as just an idea for some fun among friends. They were noticed by Kenny Liner of Baltimore jam band, The Bridge, who was able to help them record their first album, Abbey Dub, a reggae version of Abbey Road, as well as help get them on the road. They toured the country hard in 2011 and 2012, which included a favorite show at Red Rocks, a stage that The Beatles had also played on. More recently, the band has scaled back to mainly play locally around the D-M-V area.
The Yellow Dubmarine performance streaming on Rootfire TV at 8pm ET on Christmas night will contain eight songs plus a little extra material for fans. Rootfire readers can catch a preview of the song “Got to Get You into My Life” here today – an upbeat roots rocking version wonderfully buoyed, of course, with cheerful horns. (Incidentally, given the widespread adoration of ganja within the international reggae community, it seems worth mentioning the lesser known fun fact that this song was written as a love song to marijuana.)
P.S. Speaking of The Beatles and the holidays, it seems pertinent to mention the Beatles Christmas records, a series of recorded messages that the band sent out as seasonal greetings to their fan clubs in the U.K. and the U.S.A. from 1963-1969. Although a bit silly as the band was known to banter, these recordings have a chummy charm as the Fab Four directly addresses their fans with merriment and gratitude. For anyone interested, some of them can be heard here.
(Several years were unavailable due to copyright restrictions.)
P.P.S. Beatles fans will also want to check out this awesome sneak peak of the forthcoming Peter Jackson documentary scheduled for release in 2021, culled from 56 hours of never-before-seen footage!
P.P.P.S. From all of us at Rootfire, we wish you a Merry Christmas!