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Skip Marley, Bob's grandson, gives ACL Fest the royal reggae treatment

Ramon Ramirez
Special to the American-Statesman

We needed earnest white guys in CamelBaks, swaying and vaping. Skip Marley was the perfect conduit for getting the people going. 

Skip is the fourth Marley to perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, after Bob’s sons Stephen, Ziggy and Damien. The 25-year-old grandson of the reggae pioneer is a Grammy-nominated traditionalist unafraid of modern styles, one who makes hip-hop-flavored songs alongside guys like Rick Ross. He’s a good, adaptable singer with a deep appreciation for tradition. (The Kingston artist is the son of Bob’s daughter, Cedella.)

Skip Marley performs during Weekend 1 of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.

On Friday at ACL, performing an hour early amid rescheduling shuffles, Marley leaned on 2020’s underrated “Higher Place,” a smooth and meditative album full of spirituality and romance.

Wearing a tie-dyed shirt with his grandfather’s name on it, Marley apparently savored his time onstage as ACL '21’s unexpected-due-to-rain opening act.

Of course, the Bob Marley singles helped. 

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“If you know this one, feel free to sing along,” he told Zilker Park patrons filing before “Three Little Birds”, a songbook classic so routine the grounds crew sung along. 

Is it a trick out of any Flamingo Cantina opening act’s bag of tricks? Sure, but Marley isn’t just a reggae royal — dude oozes charisma. His six-piece band (two backup singers, bass, drums, keys, guitar) offered muscular instrumentation to transcend the confines of a scorching, pre-rush hour afternoon on the Miller Lite stage. 

Plus, his stuff is legit! 

The newly released, Popcaan-assisted “Vibes” snaps with the dancehall vibes of a perfectly appropriated Drake single. “Slow Down” apes the gnarly bass work of Marcia Aitken riddim classic “I’m Still In Love/Three Piece Suit.” On the stellar “That’s Not True,” Marley offers deft poetry about gun violence: “When the banana peels, I tell you that's not fruit.” 

Skip Marley, grandson of reggae legend Bob Marley, brought the family legacy to Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.

The festival bros in novelty hats seemed to love that one. Marley proved a perfect ACL act, mixing live and programmed instrumentation and hitting the right cross-generational beats time and again.

Even Bob Marley and the Wailers classic “Could You Be Loved?” landed with purpose. Put that Delta-8 smoke in the air. 

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Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Skip Marley is a Grammy winner. He has been nominated before but has not won.