Reggae concert will be all about Love
After a successful first week at Mayo Park, this week’s headliner for the Think Bank Down By the Riverside free outdoor concert series promises to bring a laid-back, uplifting feeling to Rochester.
Hawaiian reggae artist Mike Love is set to take the stage Sunday, along with Wisconsin folk artist Stanton West. Love’s Spotify bio speaks to the spirituality of his music, saying “fans often leave live performances remarking about how they have just been to church, or had a bad day turned around.” We talked with Mike to see how he embraces that label, as well as exploring his writing process and the uniting power of music.
Med City Beat: Are you touring right now? What’s the road been like the last few days?
Mike Love: It’s been great! We started off in Canada, playing shows in Toronto and Quebec. We hit New York for a little bit, and last night we were in Kalamazoo. I’m in Chicago right now… we’ll be playing a show there tonight.
MCB: What’s the energy like at these shows?
ML: It’s really amazing. It’s all about positive connection and people are really responding more and more. Every show we play, it just feels that much better.
MCB: I was drawn to a little snippet of your Spotify bio [quoted above] ... is that something you try to do at each show?
ML: Well, I don’t think it’s something I’m constantly aware of, but I think that’s just something that naturally happens with the content of the music. The energy that we bring … you know, I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I think spirituality is really important. I think that’s part of the reason people respond the way they do to our music … We’re all about freedom, self-expression, and letting people just be themselves. I think that comes through in the music — people just let go of their worries and dance.
MCB: Yeah, I think a lot of people use music as a release — myself included — and it’s always a special moment when the audience shares it, too. Is that something you feel while you’re performing?
ML: Yeah, that’s why I do it! That’s what music is for. It’s healing for me just as much as it is for the audience. A lot of the band has a family of their own back home, so it’s a big sacrifice to be on the road away from their kids and wives. It can’t be us just being on the road, making some money and having a good time, for this to be worth it … there has to be some deeper meaning.
MCB: So, how did you get your start in music? How did you get from Hawaii to playing shows across the continent?
ML: I had a lot of support from really great artists. I started on tours supporting great bands like Groundation, Trevor Hall, Xavier Rud, and I had a lot of success through YouTube. That’s what’s allowed me to tour places like Europe, Central and South America, and all over the States. It’s amazing how recording one little video one morning can blossom into something so big.
MCB: What was the one video, if it’s just one, that really took off?
ML: Definitely our “Permanent Holiday” video. That’s the one that got us going. I think it’s close to 20 million views now. It hit the front page of Reddit a few years ago, and it went from a few thousand views to a couple million overnight. We started to get an audience all over the world — people from the Netherlands, people from Mexico, from all over. It’s just been a snowball since then. It just keeps getting better.
MCB: Do you have any new music on the way for this audience?
ML: Yeah, we just finished recording a new album. It’s still in the works, but we’re working on it right now. It’s a pretty big project. We also just recorded a live album, that’ll be out pretty soon. I’m also working on a little side project EP with some members of [aforementioned reggae band] Groundation. We’re really excited about our new album. We just did single takes to tape — we didn’t have the luxury of digital recording. We really had to focus on our rehearsals and our live sound, because everyone in the band had to nail their take from start to finish at the same time. It turned out to be an incredible experience, I’m incredibly excited to share it with the world.
MCB: My final question for you is something I ask everyone who plays this festival … we’re trying to establish a music scene in Rochester, and it’s just starting to get off the ground. In your experience, what qualities does a healthy music community show, and what should Rochester emulate as we become more established?
ML: The community, of course, has everything to do with it. Its about connecting people. If people are going to want to come to a show, they need ot know that they’ll be in an environment where they feel safe. Building a community like that is so much more than putting on a concert. It’s really about forming relationships. It’s beautiful to create events like Down By the Riverside, because they do bring the community together, and that’s so important in this age of disconnection. Getting people to come out of their caves and connect with one another is so important. I’m not an expert in that, but I know music and art brings people together. Good causes bring people together. People working to bring change, that’s what brings us together.
You can catch Mike Love, along with opener Stanton West, in concert this Sunday, July 21 at Mayo Park. The free show starts at 7 p.m.
Story written by reporter and musician Isaac Jahns.
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