Today marks the release* of “Rugged Road,” the 5th full-length album from The Aggrolites. The Los Angeles based band coined the term “Dirty Reggae” to describe their brand of soul-infused reggae. Since their formation in 2002, they have toured all over the world and have created an international base of die-hard fans in the process.
In tribute and celebration to the lads in The Aggrolites, I wanted to share a personal experience I had with the band early on in both of our music careers.
It was the summer of 2003. My band, PIMPBOT, played our first string of mainland shows. The “Coconut Monkey Tour” consisted of venues as far south as San Diego and stretched up to Atascadero, California. Ska veteran Chris Murray carried the draw and interest of fans while two new bands warmed up the crowds on a nightly basis. At the time, PIMPBOT had been around for 2 years and the Aggrolites were playing for about a year. We gradually warmed up to each other as we traded comedic banter at each of our intimate shows.
It wasn’t til we reached Atascadero where the real band bonding began. We had just played Atascadero High School‘s “Flippin’ Fiesta.” Being hours away from Los Angeles, the guys in The Aggrolites decided to stay overnight before driving back to Hollywood. All the evening’s musicians were invited to stay the night at the newly established Rockwell Sounds Studio. It was a recipe for a fun night. A bunch of musicians with beer, video games, and musical instruments in a soundproof studio.
It wasn’t long before everyone began singing and playing together in what is known as a jam session. Canadians, Californians and Hawaiians all mashed up in a musical bowl of hobo chili. At one point, I remember harmonizing a few lines with Jesse Wagner. At which point, I remember mr drummer Chris Lapan running out of the studio saying “I gotta get my tape recorder for this!” There were a few more tunes we all played before we slowly faded into our respective alcoholic slumber.
When PIMPBOT finally returned home, Chris couldn’t stop telling his girlfriend about the amazing jam session we had with a band that played a brand of reggae we’ve never heard. He eagerly reached for his tape recorder in hopes of sharing the “magic” we helped create on that fateful night. Unfortunately Chris went and grabbed his recorder a few beers too late. By the time Chris had pressed his shiny red button, the session was on its way out. Instead of hearing a fusion of ska influences in a once in a lifetime jam session, Chris’ tape held the voices of a bunch of drunk dudes crushing beer cans, singing “Purple Rain.” The moment had been forever lost and perhaps that is what made the night special for me.
What makes events special in one’s life is that they are impossible to recreate. The only proof that the night existed is in the liner notes of The Aggrolites‘ first album “Dirty Reggae,” where they thank PIMPBOT for partying with them. If The Aggrolites, PIMPBOT and Chris Murray were locked in the same studio with the same party elements, it would not be the same. Both bands rounding out a decade in our careers, the bright-eyed excitement of a new band is no longer there. I’ve since developed a gag relax to hippies asking me to jam the moment they hear I play trombone. We all get jaded in life. Success and failure both contribute to it.
The Aggrolites have gone on to the world of record deals and international success. There’s no other band for whom I feel genuinely happy and proud for when I see youtube videos of packed arenas singing along to their songs. They have even played on PIMPBOT‘s stomping grounds in the past year. Unfortunately playing different spectrums on the genre of ska has kept us from sharing the stage.
Moral of the story? Perhaps a few. Meet new people, you never know what’s gonna happen. Don’t try to re-create magical moments. When you try to capture lightning, you get shocked. In this case, lightning was “Purple Rain.”
* Release date is for the CD version of the album. Digital download and vinyl were released 2/22/11.