The energy at the Santa Barbara Bowl was infectious on Thursday night as Isla Vista-founded reggae-rock band Iration co-headlined their home venue with hip-hop duo Atmosphere. This electrifying concert, featuring openers by The Grouch and Passafire, was the penultimate stop on their 2022 Sunshine & Summer Nights Tour.
Rapper The Grouch played first, accompanied by DJ Fresh, in a relentlessly energetic opening to the night, with fast and comical rhymes that would set the mood for the remainder of the evening. Next to take the stage was reggae-rock group Passafire, who built on the already-high energy, delivering groovy reggae beats overlaid with hard-hitting guitar riffs.
Atmosphere was the first of the co-headliners to perform. Rapper Slug (Sean Daley) matched his partner Ant’s (Anthony Davis) smooth, dreamy beats with quick-witted, effortless flow. Daley’s rapport with the audience was remarkable: from the numerous interludes between songs he used to praise their energy to the roarous sound of the packed amphitheater singing along to the duo’s 2002 classic, “GodLovesUgly,” the emotional connection was tangible. The sun went down during Atmosphere’s set, setting the stage for fantastic space visuals with blue and purple lights during the cerebral, jazzy beats and monotone rapping of “God’s Bathroom Floor.”
By the time Iration took the stage, the Bowl was buzzing — their chill, earthy reggae beats, interspersed with funky guitar riffs and the occasional addition of a soulful trumpet solo, pulled a relaxed, yet exhilarating energy from the crowd. Lead singer Micah Pueschel brought an intimate excitement and visible elation to be headlining his home venue in Santa Barbara — or, as he described it, “the best place in the entire country, straight up.”
The band performed a number of old and new favorites, including “Time Bomb, “Already Gold,” and “Guava Lane.” Iration brought local ukulele player Jeffa Vegas on to perform with them during the lofty nostalgic island sounds of “Lost and Found.” For their final song — as a tribute to Katastro lead singer Andy Chavez, who passed away in May, and was originally slated to be part of the tour — they performed a cover of a Katastro tune, taking the encore until the Bowl closed, although it was clear that both the band and the crowd would have preferred to stay all night long, connecting and dancing to the beachy beats.