Are we too mean to white-guy reggae? Isla Vista, California’s Rebelution, seven-strong onstage Sunday at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, is exactly the band you picture: Marley D. Williams’ bass strap is yellow, green, and red; tenor saxophonist Eric Hirschhorn plays barefoot; “De-Stress” is about being “too blessed to be stressed.”
“Inhale Exhale,” with its shout-outs to Washington state and Colorado, is about as subtle as a “legalize it” sticker. But because my brother previously played in a similar band that would frequently perform in breweries and area reggae club Flamingo Cantina, I have a soft spot for it all. They genre-blend without pretension—as long it jams. They stand for progress, inclusion, and love as a catch-all solution to everything.
Former in 2004, Rebelution played friendly and mightily at the American Express stage. Singer Eric Rachmany recalls 311 singer Nick Hexum in tone and inflection. They’ve worked with Jamaican producers like Winta James; they care about curation and homaging legacies, in other words.
“I know this won't last forever, but I wish this would last forever,” he sings on “Fade Away.”
If Idles’ set on Sunday was fuming; and Julia Jacklin’s intimate songwriting landed with devastating vulnerability, Rebelution was a classical festival palette cleanser: friendly, energetic, and earnest like the party guest who stops for ice.
The dudes can also riff, and unlike many ACL acts, cooly played for their entire allotted hour. Touring guitarist Kyle Ahern made use of the catwalk setup for tonight’s Mumford and Sons show and treated Zilker patrons to some Van Halen-esque finger-tapping. The two-man horn section later traded extended, crowd-pleasing solos—also on the catwalk!
2007’s “Safe and Sound” landed despite its Caribbean patois (and lots of “pah-pah-pah-paahhhs”), and boasted a gnarly, crawling bass line.
“I've got a hunch that we don't want to diss, let’s move away from hate and prejudice,” Rachmany sings on “Good Vibes.”
On “City Life,” he raged against the man with enough bombast and angst to make you duck out early and grab a kayak.
Rocking black-and-grey T-shirts and shades—four of them also wore backward caps—the lax Cali bros recalled the West Coast transplants who Ausitnites side-eye because they seem well-adjusted and eat healthier.
Drummer Wesley Finley’s DW drum kit even came outfitted with a holster for Solo cups. Fitter, happier indeed.
“Hey If you love roots reggae music as much as we do, it’s about that time,” Rachmany said during the intro to closer “Roots Reggae Music.”
He meant the genre but a whole bunch of folks dug the song, too.