By the Rivers at Jazz Cafe
Leicester reggae band By the Rivers have been touring and recording since 2010, and in that time have received attention from BBC Introducing, played in Hollyoaks and been the support act for The Specials. Tonight they play Camden’s Jazz Cafe, on a stage that has hosted De La Sol and Lee Scratch Perry among others and has a reputation for making bookings just before an artist gets big.
On the face of it, six white guys playing reggae sounds like some kind of gap yah reunion attended by red-cheeked toffs wearing bead necklaces and floppy hair. The crowd give an enthusiastic cheer as the band take to the stage, and soon start a mid-energy skank that bubbles along for the rest of the set.
With one drummer, a saxophonist/keyboard player, trumpet player and three guitarists, the sound is thick; it demands attention, and makes their years of experience behind them obvious. The band roll through 13 or 14 songs, playing well and keeping the crowd engaged, although differentiating between tracks is challenging. Perhaps it is the defining trait of reggae, that it transports the listener to a hazy continuum of sound, strolling through familiar grooves and chord combinations, but with an element of aggression. While the music creates an atmosphere where everything sounds sunny and “irie”, the layered vocals seem to express dissatisfaction in their tone, even when the lyrics are not clear. The key is mostly minor, causing a level of unease in the listener. Punctuation provided by the brass on the more ska tracks brings a clearer vibe to the room.
The band come back quickly for the encore, and the room appear to be loving it. By the Rivers play another track seemingly effortlessly and disappear quickly. Not having chatted much to the crowd (their words often swallowed by the sheer weight of the music), the gig might seem for some like a one-night stand: perfectly fine, but the band remain strangers.
For further information about By The Rivers and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Lowlands here: