Photos: Mike Forbes
Much has been made of the Kingston, ON trio in recent years; bringing rock stained reggae to the forefront of mainstream radio is no easy feat. Touring on the heels of their latest LP, Street Gospels, they brought their jams to Guelph Ontario’s second annual Hillside Inside Festival.
Production of the new record, like their major label debut, was handled by Bad Brains’ Darryl Jenifer. The heavily dreadlocked prince of rock-reggae took some chances with this record, including electronics, fades and echoes. But, while ska and dub are ever-present, the styles serve as merely a base for their rock-skank melodies.
Singer Jay Malinowski had warmed up earlier in the day with a solo set that allowed him to work through some softer acoustic material, including a soulful rendition of their first single ever, Santa Monica. Thus, when Bedouin hit the main stage in its full form, minus original drummer Pat Pengelly, they were ready to rock. And rock they did.
The set opened with a small horn section that consisted of a trumpet and sax, playing some loud island-y licks. Then Malinowski and bassist Eon Sinclair took to their mics. They burned through the new single Until We Burn in the Sun (the kids just want a love song) right off the bat. Sinclair’s heavy plucking sounded perfect as the set rolled on; the crowd hanging onto (and singing) every word.
The set featured a lot of the uppity tracks from Street Gospels, notably the sunny St. Andrew’s, which seemed a crowd favorite. The real highlights however, seemed to come from their smash 2004 record, Sounding a Mosaic. The radio hits from this record drew huge reactions from the crowds and Malinowski, dressed like a hybrid of Tim Armstrong and Joe Strummer, fed off of the energy as he bounced around the stage hammering his guitar and maintaining his soulful croon. When the Night Feels my Song, in all its ubiquity, appears to still be fun to play, as smiles rarely left the bands faces during this, and most of their other numbers. Like I said, the crowd energy was most certainly fuelling the fire.
This set was later on in the day and many a Sleeman Draught had been consumed by yours truly, so the intimate set details escape me – but I do remember for a short while feeling like I was somewhere sunny and warm listening to the future of fan friendly reggae.