By Jenna Lazenby
Rastafarian reggae superstar Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley would soon be celebrating his 72nd birthday had he not died from a rare form of malignant melanoma at the young age of 36. Born on February 6, 1945, Jamaican-born Marley is recognized as one of the most influential musicians of all-time, responsible for delivering reggae music and messages of love, religion, and positivity as forces for change against social repression in the world. Roanoke band Lazy Man Dub Band continues to spread Marley’s messages of “One Love,” and plays to help unite the community through music. On February 4, the band will be hosting one of its annual reggae celebrations at Martin’s Downtown in celebration of “The Legend’s” birthday.
Formed in 2007 by Jamaican native Wayne Shorter, who was leading an open-mic night at The Village Grill, the seven-piece band is filled with self-described experimentalists, players unafraid to mix traditional reggae sounds with funk and rock elements, to bring an ever-evolving sound to audiences. A solid horn section anchors them, laying down a steady bed that allows for impressive guitar and keyboard digressions like on “Full Control Live.” They can then slide into a more traditional vocals-driven tune like “Turn Your Lights Down Low” or one of their Marley covers. Then, just when you think you have them figured out, they’ll hit you with one of their funky originals.
“We play a wide range of reggae and incorporate a lot of music with roots, old ska type stuff and funk tunes with horn,” the band during an interview last year at its home bar, The Village Grill. “We wanted to get to the root of everything with our music. Roots reggae is not that much different from jazz. Everyone borrows from everyone.”
In addition to Shorter who leads the one drop rhythm, the band is comprised of Adam Beason, guitar and vocals, Chris McCorkle, dub line and vocals, Matt Leonard, percussion, Justin Pinckney, saxophone, Ernie Freeman, trumpet, and John Stump, trumpet. However, they often mix things up by adding the powerful vocals of Rhiana Roper, as well as guest appearances by other local musicians. When Lazy Man took the Martin’s stage in 2012 to open for the Original Wailers, Marley’s backing band, they did so as an impressive 13-piece, dubbed “The Lazy Man Orchestra.”
“Our music is all about coming together as a whole and finding common ground and unity,” McCorkle said during the interview. “Together we’re stronger than any individual, and we need unity in this crazy time we’re living in. Most people can come together and move to a rhythm. We’re out there playing to help put a smile on people’s face and trying to help each other and our community thrive.”
In addition to the annual Bob Marley birthday bash, now in its ninth year, the band has also played Buchanan’s Reggae by the River for the past several years, and in 2016 hosted the first Lazy Man Dub Band Reggae Fest. The event is a community fundraiser for the non-profit, Humble Hustle Company, an organization that helps encourage people to use their natural skills to create a living and help each other. A second Reggae Fest is currently being planned for this summer.
“A lot of roots reggae is about helping each other and helping yourself,” Shorter emphasized. “It’s about getting up and getting out and doing things for your community. My purpose is to bring people together. People need music to help take the edge off.”
Fans of the band can also expect to see a new LP released this year that they have been recording at Summit Sound. The release will be a mix of originals, along with a few covers to give listeners their take on familiar songs.
During the interview, all of the members seemed to agree that no matter what the future holds, the plan is to just keep making music together. As Shorter noted, “What else is there beyond music? Without it, I’d just be sitting at my house getting old.”
Visit the Lazy Man Dub Band’s ReverbNation page to learn more about the band, sample their music and to view upcoming tour dates. Check out the official Facebook invite for more information on the upcoming Bob Marley Birthday Bash.