Gathered in front of the main stage at the Live Oak Music Festival on Friday night, fans eagerly awaited the arrival of the Grammy award-winning group, Toots and the Maytals. Seated under the rustic oaks that surround the Santa Ynez campsite, listeners enjoyed a perfect natural acoustic environment for the concert, which would be filled with some of reggae’s most memorable and best loved-songs.
Leba Thomas set the scene for the group, as she opened the performance decked in the traditional green and gold and sharing her pristine vocals with the band and the crowd, building up the excitement for the arrival of the main attraction, Toots. When he did appear—in a shiny burgundy pleather suit and wearing wrap around shades—Toots tore into ‘Pressure Drop’ the moment he hit the stage. Hundreds of low beach chairs emptied simultaneously as people popped onto their feet to dance. Toots took the energy level of the crowd even higher as he began jumping up and down and everyone else joined in. Toots encouraged the crowd to sing along and flattered them by saying, “You guys are so musical.” The Maytals played all their hits, including “ Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston”. “Funky Kingston” was a special crowd pleaser with its call-and-response “nah-nah-nahs” and gospel-inspired back-up singing.
Multiple generations came out to hear, feel, and experience true reggae music under the stars. From graybeards in tie-dye to teens in flannel, everyone related to this music, which has been so important to the evolution of reggae out of ska and rock steady. The standing section of the crowd grew steadily as the concert went on, demonstrating the irresistible appeal of the Maytals and the contagious quality of Toots’ energy.