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Dance In Traffic

First annual music festival brings reggae masters to a new venue

By Liz Dzuro

Published: Monday, August 31, 2009

Updated: Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Singer Ojay Smith of local band The Resolvers performs at City Limits in Delray Beach on Jan. 30, 2009. The band’s reggae-style music that’s mixed with various other genres — including rock, jazz and hip-hop — brings a large crowd to their regular spots, like Kahuna Bar and Grill in Deerfield Beach. Because of their local support, the band was voted for in DubFest’s Open Slot Contest and won a spot to play in the show.

The punk and ska sounds from Goldfinger have been around since the mid ’90s, but their music is heard mostly through video games and movies. They have seven different songs featured in a total of seven video games, like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, and five movies, like their cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” in Not Another Teen Movie and Eurotrip. The band is back on the road to promote their newest release, Hello Destiny, after a major record label change.

The California-based Reel Big Fish come to the South Florida area once again. The six-piece ska band seems to play shows in this area almost annually, and they still draw a crowd of dancing teenagers every time. They also visited FAU in fall 2007 for the Rock the Owl concert, where they opened for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

Jamming out to the mellow grooves of reggae while enjoying a beautiful South Florida day is one way to escape the stress of school and work. It might even make you forget that you’re in the middle of an intersection in busy downtown Hollywood.

DubFest 2009 is an all-day concert taking place on Sept. 5. AEG Live, who’s hosting the event, boasts 14 bands on two stages, a crafts fair, skateboard ramps and much more to take place in a glorified traffic circle.

The newly renovated Hollywood ArtsPark is located at Hollywood Blvd. and U.S. 1. The round 10-acre space, a third of the size of Miami’s Bicentennial Park, is the spot where DubFest will be held.

Jesse Stoll, AEG Live operations coordinator, says he expects 5,000 to 10,000 people to attend and thinks that Hollywood ArtsPark is the perfect location for the first of what he hopes to be a recurring festival.

“The beautiful renovations [to the park] over the past couple years, including the dancing waterfalls [and] the musical Baobab trees, lend a serene and hip atmosphere to the event,” says Stoll.

The impressive lineup scheduled for DubFest has music legends Bunny Wailer and Lee “Scratch” Perry booked as the main acts. The newest addition to the event will be local reggae band The Resolvers, who won DubFest’s Open Slot Contest. The contest took place online through the official DubFest Web site, where fans voted in a number of rounds for their favorite local band. 

The Resolvers are five guys who play reggae-style music but with inspiration from rock, jazz and hip-hop. Their fan base includes many FAU students because some band members are alumni or are still attending the university for music degrees. Guitarist Ron Eisner has graduated, while bassist Steave Nieratka and front-of-house engineer Mark Ortenzo are still students.

“We’re stoked about winning the spot for DubFest. It shows that we have fans that care and would go to great lengths for us,” says Eisner.

And they should be excited: According to Stoll, Bunny Wailer, a man who once shared the stage with the late and great Bob Marley, is making his only appearance in the United States at this concert.

“This is a real treat for reggae fans who’ve been dying to see him for years, as he rarely makes any appearances or [performances],” says Stoll.

“Bunny is the last survivor of the Wailers! Lee Perry basically single-handedly invented dub music! So when it comes to being deep-rooted in reggae, it doesn’t get much deeper than this,” says Eisner.

But the event won’t peak with these three acts. The day is filled with reggae and ska sounds from Reel Big Fish (who came to FAU in fall 2007 for the Rock the Owl concert), Goldfinger, Sublime tribute band Badfish, Scotty Don’t, Authority Zero and many more.

“I’ve been listening to Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish for, like, 10 years now and I just love live music in general, so a whole day of it is always fun,” says senior marketing major Danny Gootner, who’s a regular to festival concerts like Langerado and Bonnaroo.

And there’s more going on than just the music. The park will also have a skate demonstration from the skateboard teams of Island Water Sports and Grind for Life, an interactive area where organizations will promote “green” awareness, and if it gets too hot there’s a water fountain playground to cool off in.

Even struggling students will be able to get together the money to enjoy a Saturday full of events. Tickets are only $35 in advance and $40 the day of the show. That’s like getting to see the skate show and all 14 bands for under $3 each — which will save the rest of your dough for a sweet T-shirt or two.

0 Comments :: Permalink :: Wed 9/30/2009 12:09 PM
Catching fire

Deerfield Beach's the Resolvers turn reggae on its dreadlocked head

By Joanie Cox
City Link Metromix

The members of reggae band the Resolvers gather around the kitchen counter at bassist Steave Nieratka's Pompano Beach home. Drinking Heineken from Mason jars, the band's members reminisce about the day their group accidentally came together in 2007.

"We took the jam-band approach," guitarist Ron Eisner says. "We landed a gig at Kahuna Bar and Grill in Deerfield Beach, which was a dream gig for a reggae band. The band literally formed at the gig, but we were all friends first."

The band started out performing reggae versions of unexpected covers by Sam Cooke, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison and the Beatles. "You can reggae-fy pretty much any song," the 28-year-old Eisner explains with a laugh.

However, the Resolvers don't fit the stereotype of the reggae band. First off, four out of the five members are white. Eisner is an accountant from Tel Aviv. Keyboardist Dean Fishback grew up a country boy in Tallahassee, but became so deeply accepted by the reggae scene he has become the go-to guy for tours to Martinique and Hawaii with national reggae acts such as Glenn Washington and Wailing Souls. Drummer Nate Largent has a day job as a massage therapist. Nieratka is obsessed with science-fiction novels. And lead vocalist Ojay Smith is a skateboarding Frisbee enthusiast who is also the son of 1960s reggae singer Ernie Smith.

"For a while, we felt like we had to prove ourselves to sound authentic," Eisner says. "People would come out and say, 'This bunch of white guys is going to play reggae?'"

Just as Eisner is getting animated about the early days of his band, a fly lands in one of the Mason jars.

"You want to see a trick? I bet I can bring him back to life," says the 32-year-old Largent while fishing the insect from the glass. He dumps a mountain of salt on the fly and nothing happens. The other members of the band shake their heads in disbelief, study the pile for a minute and continue their stories.

"The hardest part of being a band is getting along," Eisner admits. "You get burned out down here. It took a while to finally get in the habit of rehearsing two to three times a week and writing some tunes. You put so many years into a project and in a second, it can be gone."

Fishback, 37 and considered the veteran of the band, says he never anticipated reggae to go so mainstream. "The punk rockers in the '80s loved reggae, not for its peaceful message, but because it was a rebellious thing," he says. "It's awesome, though, because now ska is making a comeback, and we're able to draw off each other's roots as musicians. Reggae music definitely came from some badass musicians."

With a mixture of rock, jazz and blues backgrounds, the Resolvers boast a traditional reggae sound with a punky twist. The band's debut five-song EP, "H'amsa," which means five in Arabic, was released last year. Two of the songs were featured on a TV show called "Island Hoppers," and the CD helped land the group a gig at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Montego Bay.

"When you get off the plane in Jamaica with guitar cases, you get treated so good right from the airport," the 32-year-old Smith says. "There's such an appreciation for music there."

The Resolvers have performed with Estelle and Robin Thicke. They opened for the Original Wailers in Delray Beach and Key West in March, backed Mishka June 11 at Revolution and shared a stage with Yellowman, O Rappa, Less than Jake and Badfish.

"From day one, I was collecting e-mails and hustling to get a following," Eisner recalls. "There's a big reggae scene in Deerfield Beach. There's us, Spread the Dub, Kayaki, which is a Brazilian reggae band, and Stampede, who got their name because there's literally, like, eight people on the stage."

The Resolvers tend to deliver a positive message in their lyrics, as in the song "Clear": "People change/Maybe I should, too/Start today/Tomorrow won't be soon enough to clear up my mistakes." The band also manages to keep the lyrics relevant and its melodies less predictable than the standard two-chord reggae lick. The tune "Giving Into Love" features doo-wop-style R&B backing vocals.

"I think our four-part harmonies make us rare," Largent says. "We have a deep appreciation for old-school musicianship."

The band typically opens a set with "Sound Check," a smooth, feel-good tune that makes the tedious routine of testing microphone levels seem fun. While they go on about peace, fighting for your rights and spreading love as Bob Marley did, the Resolvers also sing about getting off pills, long-distance relationships and surviving the daily grind.

"We find it doesn't work for all five of us to sit down together and write a song," Nieratka says. "It works best if we pair up or individually come up with concepts. We'll throw some ideas around and come together on it. Then, it just flows."

That accidental sort of chemistry even explains the band's name. "We were Ova Dub, Under Dub," Eisner admits. "Then, one night, we were about to finish a big song and none of us came in for that final note except Dean. We called him the resolver to the song and then the name just stuck."

The Resolvers play an average of 13 shows a month and in August will travel to California to embark on their first tour. "Our new stuff has more depth lyrically," Nieratka says. "The structure of the music is more complex."

Smith, who often gets songwriting advice from his famous father, says his band has grown from the thriving reggae movement in Deerfield.

"We have a mature approach to our music," he says. "We just go with the flow and move. We're not letting egos or emotion hold us back."

Just as everyone seems to have forgotten about the fly Largent was trying to resuscitate with a salt pile, its wings slowly begin to flutter and it takes off out the window.

"I thought that was total bullshit, but it actually worked," Nieratka says, high-fiving Largent.

"Reggae is about optimism, freedom, it's uplifting," Eisner says. "It's the story of mankind. And apparently, Nate really is a healer."

visit Contact Joanie Cox at


0 Comments :: Permalink :: Tue 8/11/2009 8:32 AM H'amsa EP
The Resolvers are a South Florida quintet that formed in 2007 and are already making a splash on the reggae scene down there. One listen to their debut EP, H'amsa (Arabic for "five"), makes it clear why the crowds are lapping up their music. Their charming brand of roots with an easygoing pop edge channels great crossover bands like Steel Pulse, Aswad, Third World and Inner Circle -- without the layer of cheese that those bands have waded through in their more modern recordings. Their sound is rooted in classic reggae, featuring wonderful harmonies, bouncing one-drop rhythms, groovy organs and soulful melodies that veer into intriguing pop/rock territory, as on the ballad "It Was You." Lyrically, the group proves striking, especially on the standout track, "Clear," an introspective tune that delves into a level of critical self-analysis not usually head in reggae:

People change; maybe I should too.
Start today; tomorrow won't be soon enough to clear up I mistakes.

Lead singer Ojay has a wonderfully rich, deep tone similar to Bambu Station's Jalani Horton, and his emotion sells each of the five tracks. If the Resolvers can maintain this level of quality over a full album, it will certainly be in the running for one of the best releases of the year.

0 Comments :: Permalink :: Tue 8/11/2009 8:29 AM