The Aggrolites bring it.
Sunday, 3:15am. Somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles, their tour van chews up I-5 as they make their way to the next show. In their wake: another sweaty congregation has finally dispersed, and the club has gone dark. This time it was the Boom Boom Room: John Lee Hooker's legendary nightspot in the shadow of the Fillmore.
Earlier, the otherwise unflappable bartender stopped in the midst of her routine and sounded her approval. That was sound check and they were just warming up.
Where did they come from? That's the question floating through the sold out crowd from mouth to ear at 10:30. You can tell the Aggrolites sound is blowing the club's collective mind, and the people can't believe they've been snuck upon.
Led by guitarist Brian Dixon and frontman Jesse Wagner, the band effortlessly blends the most authentic 60's Jamaican sound with their own brand of raw intensity and grit. The recipe calls for a heap of Lee Perry and WAR and Toots for good measure. It's a viscous stew called Dirty Reggae.
Here's the snapshot:
Brian and Jesse have extensive knowledge of the idiom having backed such seminal reggae artists as Scotty, Robbie Lyn, Joseph Hill, Derrick Morgan, Cedric Brooks, Prince Buster (with the Rhythm Doctors), Phylis Dillon, Everton Blender, King Terror, and Dean Frasier. The rest of the band, including Korey Horn, Roger Rivas, and Jason Bonner, cites influences as far afield as Steely Dan and the Meters. They come from such bands as: The Rhythm Doctors, The Vessels, See Spot, King Apparatus, Dub Street Rockers, and Kingston 10. It's a thick blend of rhythm and melody, seasoned by years of love and soul.
The Aggrolites - a name combo that pays homage to the Aggrovators and the Crystalites - came to be almost as a lark. Brian Dixon put together two bands to back Derrick Morgan: one ska and one reggae. The reggae sessions went so well that Brian asked if the gathered musicians were interested in doing more gigs after the Morgan tour wrapped up.
Unknown to anyone, the wheels on the bus were starting to turn. While Brian and Jesse were putting together the backing tracks for Derrick Morgan, they began talking about doing a raw, dirty, funky reggae project together.
Cut to a few months later.
They zero in on the sound, hone it to science, and assemble a few choice hitters. Three hours of rehearsal later, they're on stage at BB Kings, proving their point with the proverbial exclamation.
Brian breaks it down thus: "Play it over and over with endless version, you don't get tired of it. Groove is the thing, groove moves people, makes them want to dance...It moved from a small island to the entire world. Soul music moves people, reggae is soul music."
What we doing? Dirty Reggae...