John Brown’s Body returns to Vail
VAIL CO, Colorado
The words “travel light” are meaningless to the members of John Brown’s Body.
First, there are eight members in the roots reggae-dub band. And one of those members plays a rather heavy instrument, namely a Hammond B-3 electric organ, which comes with the additional weight of a Leslie speaker.
At tonight’s show in Vail, the band will play at Gold Peak, on a stage that’s essentially under Chair 6. If you’re standing at Larkspur restaurant and looking towards the hill, it might look easy to get an organ to the stage.
It is not. It’s a real pain. Just ask Diane Moody with Resort Entertainment. Moody booked the show – the headlining concert for the Winter Mountain Games – and she’s been talking logistics with the band’s manager the last few days, trying to get the organ issue figured out. But it’s all worth it to have the band’s big sound entertaining the crowd at the base of the mountain tonight.
“It’s not easy getting people out these days but people show up for this band in huge numbers,” Moody said. “They are very true to what they do. Their integrity is great – they’re not just here for the money, they’re here to have a great, huge show and for that we have to haul this organ up the hill, but it’s a great fit for what we need. John Brown’s Body is going to kill it.”
This isn’t the first time Moody has brought the East Coast band (the members are spread between Ithaca and Brooklyn, New York and Boston, Mass.) to town. She’s booked them a number of times, including for Street Beat performances in 2009 and again in 2011, which proved to be a particularly memorable show.
“It’s the only reggae band that I’ve seen in my life that people crowd surfed at,” she said. “But that’s Vail in the winter time for you. It was pretty funny. I was like ‘What? Are people really crowdsurfing?'”
‘Holding our hand’
Even though Moody and plenty of other people use the term “reggae” when referring to John Brown’s Body, the band’s sound doesn’t fit neatly in a genre-specific box. Crawford Byers, another local music promoter who runs Rocky Mountain Entertainment, describes the band’s sound as “roots reggae updated for the times – with splashes of dub, hip hop, and drum and bass.”
The band itself describes its sound as “future roots,” with a foundation in roots reggae music that’s given a modern twist with funk and dub.
Attendance has dropped at live reggae shows in general over the past few years, Byers said for a story that ran in 2010 to preview a concert at Agave in Avon. That means in general, less reggae shows are being booked locally, but that’s not the case for John Brown’s Body, who comes to Colorado often and has toured all over the world, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and more.
But as of late, the band has been touring less, only playing “sporadic” shows; their focus has been elsewhere, according to drummer and founding band member Tommy Benedetti.
“We’ve been concentrating on getting the new full-length record finished and ready to go. And it’s finally happened. It will be out in April,” said Benedetti, who kept mum about the album’s name and track listing.
The band’s last full-length album, called “Re-Amplify” (a play on 2008’s “Amplify”) was released in 2009. The band released an EP in the middle of September and did a fair amount of touring around that, Benedetti said.
If you catch the show tonight, you’ll hear three or four songs from the full-length album, which is being released on Easy Star Records, but the rest will remain a surprise.
“We’re holding our hand for a lot of it, so it’s fresh for people and for ourselves,” Benedetti said. “I feel incredibly psyched about the new record, with how it came out. It captured the feel and sound of the band where we’re at right now. I’m super psyched for people to see the album cover. It will come out on vinyl limited edition, which is the first time we’re able to do something like that. I think we’ll have some good (touring) opportunities after this. We’re looking to get back over to Europe.”
First, though, the band is focused on its string of Colorado shows, which also includes a performance in Aspen Sunday night.
“We’ve played a bunch of these outdoor concerts in Vail and they’re always a blast,” Benedetti said. “It’s a trip to play outside in the middle of winter in the Rockies. We have a really big sound that translates really well live. With the horns, the organ and drum and bass, it’s big and pumping, with really high, heavy vibes. We love what we do and I think that comes across pretty obviously. It’s good for us and the fans as well. It’ll be a nice night of music, I think.”