Rebelution at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman

When lead vocalist Eric Rachmany gave a shout-out to his grandma in the audience, it felt like a family-and-friends affair for headliners Rebelution. Yes, the Isla Vista-spawned crew, which formed in 2004 during their UC Santa Barbara days, led KJEE’s August 13 reggae-rock festival at the Bowl.

Audiences haven’t heard the end rhymes “fire” and “higher” this many times in one sitting since they purchased Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday. By the time Rebelution appeared, the place smelled like Amsterdam and it was tough to “Inhale Exhale” (as one Rebelution number went) without starting to choke on pot smoke. (Hopefully, Rachmany’s grandmother left the venue feeling giddy, not on a gurney.)

The festival started amicably enough with Through the Roots. The San Diego collective struggled to motivate the few in attendance at this nascent point in the evening. They built momentum, leading a small crowd in waving window-wipers through “Higher” and new single “Miss Lovely” before ending with hard jam “Bear With Me” (replete with Fishbone-edged guitar).

Unfurling the ambling “Choice is Yours,” the laid-back, motley crew known as Stick Figure had the most personality and professionalism. The San Diego outfit — featuring Massachusetts madman Scott Woodruff on lead vocals/guitar; percussionist Todd Smith; Sasquatch-sized, barefoot bassist Brendon Dane; and bouncing Muppet/keyboardist KBong — welcomed a pair of colorful pals onstage: their Burial Ground collaborator, vocalist T.J. O’Neill; and Cocoa the tour dog, a mellow, ginger-furred canine. “Fire on the Horizon,” off 2016’s Set in Stone, translated particularly well live, as did “Smokin’ Love.”

By comparison, songs unleashed by manic The Green featuring J Boog sounded generic, if capably and energetically performed.

From The Clash to ’90s alt-rock staples Sublime and 311, blue-eyed reggae-rock has been thoroughly investigated in the past four decades. So there’s nothing particularly “rebellious” or “revolutionary” about any group on KJEE’s roster. That didn’t matter to the majority of 20-and 30-somethings partying away. With songs such as “Inhale Exhale,” the punchy sax-and-trumpet-laden “Sky is the Limit”; and the equally upbeat “Good Vibes,” Rebelution held its hometown audience tighter than the roach of a UCSB house-party spliff.


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