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John Brown’s Body – from Pressure Points to Fireflies


John Brown’s Body was formed in 1995. In 2005 they released their sixth album, Pressure Points, on Easy Star Records. This was JBB’s debut on Easy Star, a label founded by four childhood friends, who were still riding a massive wave of success from the wildly popular Dub Side Of The Moon LP released in 2003. Pressure Points was a turning point for JBB, coming out just before a shift of singers and players within the band. The transition would see Elliot Martin go from supporting vocalist, to bonafide front man within a few short years, put into overdrive by the departure of the band’s original primary songwriter Kevin Kinsella. Sadly it was also the last JBB album that bassist Scott Palmer recorded on, before his early passing.

Pressure Points was also an incredible moment for Easy Star Records, who demonstrated the impact that a professional team of passionate reggae lovers could have on what was then a relatively unorganized sub-genre of reggae music. Within a few years of signing JBB, Easy Star would grow their family worldwide, putting out acclaimed albums by America’s top reggae bands like Passafire, The Green, and Rebelution as well as opening doors stateside to New Zealand’s The Black Seeds, and The Skints from South London.

[Speaking of genre- back in 2005 on the west coast this type of music was being called Surf Roots, on the east coast Future Roots, all the while “roots-rock-reggae” quickly became the catch all, identifying everything from Sublime to Ooklah The Moc. Over the next decade genre subtleties would further play out, with “reggae” to this day firmly flying the flag worldwide.]

Part 1:

A few months after Pressure Points was released, I packed up my Subaru and headed west for California. When I heard JBB would be in Denver, just as I was going to be driving through Colorado, I had to be there.

I was tight on cash and desperate to get into the show so I took a chance and called a number listed on the band’s website for “Jocko (Tour Manager / Sound Engineer)”. When I saw the name an image of a middle aged Frenchman wearing a beret came to mind, which would later be shattered when I met Jocko that night. He was a heavy metal lover with long blond hair in his mid twenties, friendly and totally pro.

Jocko added my name to the guest list in exchange for helping load in gear at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom.

Not realizing what I was getting into, I tried to help Elliot and Tommy Benedetti carry the Hammond B3. I almost fell over- the organ owned me. Tommy and I each lifted a corner, Elliot lifted a side. As my hands began to sweat I awkwardly attempted to make conversation, something any super fan can relate too.

By night’s end Kevin recruited me to give him and Nate Richardson a ride to Denver’s airport. Midnite’s Ras Mek Peace was playing when they sat in the car. I had started the album on the middle of track three, so it looked like I was naturally listening to it already when really I just wanted them to know I knew roots. Did I? On the drive Nate gushed over the new 10 Ft. Ganja Plant album that he and Kevin were working on. I managed to pull a classic “drop the needle” putting on a demo from my favorite local band back home, a song that Matt Goodwin had recorded in his house… ”you gotta listen to my friends band, you could bring them on tour!” I said. I was seizing the moment and thought Kevin and Nate would fall in love with the band, then magically open all the doors and make them huge! We listened for maybe 30 seconds in silence. The vibe quickly fizzled and I put Midnite back on. I did not know how to hold silence; I had so much to learn.

Part 2:

You can see where I am going here: Pressure Points, OPENED the door. The music hooked me into the scene, and my 21-year-old ambitious “volunteer” attitude helped change my life. For anyone who feels they have to get involved in something good, I hope you find the courage to dive right in and let the details follow.

When Lem Oppenheimer (COO of Easy Star) asked if I would be interested in featuring a song from JBB’s most recent album Fireflies, it hit me hard. I was paralyzed to think of what direction to take the writing. How do you honor one of the most respected American reggae bands of all time, as well as shed light on just how important it was for the scene that JBB and Easy Star connected? Literally without JBB and without Easy Star, the entire reggae landscape in the U.S. would be completely different. It’s like imagining what it would be like if the Louisiana Purchase never happened.

JBB and Easy Star’s dynamic partnership paved the way to the Wild West, bringing on a gold rush of sorts for a new generation of reggae lovers. Countless musicians, promoters, fans, and businesses are now tied into the scene and will forever be grateful that the connection was made, and the family continues to grow. Thank you.

Release Date: September 9, 2016

Label: Easy Star Records

Title: Fireflies

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Seth founded Rootfire while he was managing a group of influential modern reggae acts, including The Green, John Brown’s Body, and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The goal of the project has always been to connect the people who participate in the modern reggae movement.

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