Reggae band rocks Prescott
PRESCOTT - It may be a weeknight, but by 10 p.m. Tuesday, young bodies are gyrating and bouncing around a crowded dance floor at Annie's Attic while Ikaika "Kai" Beamer and Common Ground are roaring out reggae.
"Hip-hop, reggae, punk, island reggae rock - make that bouncy island reggae," Beamer said while trying to describe his unique brand of reggae. Beamer is a recent Hawaiian transplant to Prescott and knows the difference between island reggae and reggae's other sub-genres.
"In Hawaii, everyone likes island reggae," said Beamer, 32, who is descended from a legendary Hawaiian music family. "Here, everyone likes Sublime."
Beamer formed Common Ground about a month ago with Prescott bassist Chris Fairless, 25, who plays bass for the rock band Spafford, and drummer Nick Tkachyk, 21, a Yavapai College student.
Tkachyk already liked and played reggae before Beamer invited him to join Common Ground, but Fairless was a novice.
"I got into reggae because of Kai," Fairless said. "It's way different. I studied the music and listened to CDs. It's more laid-back."
Beamer grew up listening to his dad's "old-style reggae" and started playing ukulele when he was 13.
"When I was 15, I bought a guitar from a pawn shop because I noticed the guitar players were getting all the girls," he said.
When Beamer and his girlfriend decided to move into his aunt's vacant Prescott house and set up their graphic arts business, he wasn't planning to get into music, given that the area is not known for its reggae scene. "But I ended up doing some open mics and that's where I met Chris," he said.
Fairless introduced Beamer to Tkachyk and a reggae band was born.
Mention reggae and most people think of Bob Marley and the Wailers, huge marijuana cigarettes, the Jamaican underworld, and a hypnotic tempo. However, reggae's roots originated with the United States and Afro-Caribbean music before becoming "island reggae."
Jamaicans, who gained independence in 1962, combined American rhythm and blues, African tribal songs and ska to form a sound called "rock-steady." Rock-steady bands played fast tempos and promoted the bass to lead instrument.
Marley slowed the beat down, perfected the backbeat rhythm that gives reggae its distinctive tempo, and emphasized specific bass drum beats. Beamer expanded the island reggae sound into his own unique style.
"Everyone likes the upbeat tempo," Tkachyk said. "Reggae is so diverse; it gets people up and dancing. Being the drummer, that's my main focus."
Judging from the packed dance floor Tuesday night, the band is on target.
In addition to playing guitar, Beamer writes his own songs.
"I like bands that write their own songs - not ones that play other people's cheesy songs," he said.
"Kai's music is so much more pure," said Jason Reiland, 30, who is known as "the hype man" because of his text-blasts telling people where Beamer is performing. "It's the way it makes you feel.
"You don't have to hear the words - just feel the vibe. It gets everyone pepped up."
Beamer and Common Ground perform every Tuesday at Annie's Attic, which is upstairs from Coyote Joe's at 214 S. Montezuma St. in Prescott.