Burden-lifting reggae band will play in Riverside Park
In the egg-beater of spiritualized reggae and rock outfits hatching and rehatching in the mist of downtown Denver, there are some performances which come out like a Denver omelet: dependable ingredients that go well together and make you feel nice, but as a whole, something you’ve seen before a hundred times so it doesn’t really stick with you.
Red Sage founder Jordan Armijo has no problem with the “peace, love and understanding” positive vibe of many reggae-influenced modern performers. It’s just that he can’t help but see music as a sounding board for life and a vehicle for digging up some of life’s struggles by the roots. The reggae, hip-hop and blues that inspire Armijo and his crew are the fearless kinds – the kinds that help people explore adversity and overcome.
Armijo grew up in gang-infested Pueblo circles, and in his own experience there have been many wounds to the heart that he has managed to cauterize with music. This has led his craft to what he aptly calls “the blues aspect of reggae.” Red Sage’s growing catalog of music carries that weight at the same time it helps to lift away that burden. The band has a freshman EP out titled Good to be Alive, but as Armijo has added depth in personnel and songwriting to the group, they are putting the finishing touches on a new effort called Pick up the Pieces. With compositions like “Murderers,” an upbeat funk-punk-reggae fist shake at some of the systemic forces that can drag us under, Pieces is set to draw a crowd.
At a recent show in Salt Lake City, Armijo experienced some of the gratification that comes with creating socially and personally conscious music and persevering through the early years of near starvation included in that path. A young schoolteacher approached him in tears, telling of her experience with his 2016 single “Cruel World.” With a deeper rock-steady groove and trip-hoppy melody reminiscent of early No Doubt, the song chants, “It’s a cruel world/ that’s why we work to spread a little love/ A little love is all I’m dreaming of.” It explores getting real and having enough patience to chill a hot head. This teacher requested to use the song’s lyrics as a poetry project for her students. Encounters like these have been huge in helping Armijo grow into a role as one of Colorado’s young social prophets.
Armijo talks with a sage’s proficiency about balancing dark and light in his work, perhaps a subconscious intention in his band’s name. Having been through the growing pains of forming a team to help develop his vision, Armijo has recently added musicians to the band who can take the original vision and build something much more spectacular. Drew Stiles, the genre-scattering virtuoso drummer from CollieRad, earned his roots-music chops as a preteen when traveling with his family in Jamaica. They came upon a reggae band busking on the beach, and somehow the 13-year-old Stiles was asked to sit in on Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.” The little drummer so impressed these Jamaican musicians that they had him return for the next three days to give him his first clinic in rock-steady drumming.
Guitarist Nick Pauly, for whom Armijo taught himself keys so he could make room in the band, and bassist James Normandin round out Red Sage’s evolving sound with Latin, jazz and even heavy metal experience.
Red Sage plays Thursday, June 1, for the kick off of Salida Recreation’s Thursday’s at 6 concert series in Riverside Park. You can listen to “Cruel World” now, linked to the home page of arkmagazine.net.