Aswah Greggori and the Enforcers
Jolly Bob's may be the closest thing to an island oasis in this fresh-water and land locked city. The bar and "jerk joint" has been serving up tropical drinks, food and music to all of Madison for the last 15 years. On Monday, as part of the anniversary celebration, Chicago-based band Aswah Greggori and the Enforcers made the trip north to add their brand of positive roots reggae to the mix.
They gathered for the first in a series of performances that would stretch throughout the day, first playing at four in the afternoon to an appreciative crowd on the back patio of the restaurant. The morning's gray clouds had burned off and a beautiful blue sky capped the lively but mellow show. The audience was a reassuring mix of demographics, from mothers bouncing infant babies on their hips, to a Rastafarian waving a red yellow and green flag, to middle aged white guys wobbling happily with beer in hand.
Greggori, with his silvery beard and waist-length dreadlocks, was an endearing and unassuming front man. His voice was smooth but strong, calling out the positive message of each song with things like, "Bring down the walls," and "No negativity." Reggae music tends to focus heavily on the idea of the worth of every person, stressing things such as the end of war and the peaceful coexistence of all people. The songs of Greggori and the Enforcers were no exception to the rule and brought smiles to the faces of everyone in attendance.
Each member of the band played expertly, incorporating the upbeat grooves of reggae with occasional rock and jazz influenced guitar solos. The rhythms were tight and highly danceable, with easy melodies interwoven throughout. Drums and bass laid down the essential grooves while the two guitarists took turns at rhythm and lead, one with a homemade bank of effects pedals that looked like something out of a mad scientists' basement lab.
The Enforcers stay true to the roots style of reggae music and manage to bring something fresh and new to the table through subtle but effective use of various other styles and influences. They represent the best of the tradition, harking back to groups like Bob Marley and the Wailers both for their musicality and the message of songs that range in style from upbeat dancehall to laid back roots.
It was a very fitting way to frame the days' festivities at Jolly Bob's. With local DJs filling in the gaps between sets, revelers could keep dancing, drinking and making merry without interruption throughout the entire afternoon and evening.