text: Evie Saphire-Bernstein | photography: Peter Kulak
Sean Bones’s show at the Shchubas Tavern proved something previously thought impossible: That reggae music can rock. Hard. Let’s be clear – some of the songs definitely dipped a bit to the left of some Caribbean music you might hear while on a cruise (see Hit Me Up), but for the most part, Sean Bones and his band of merry men (and one woman) manage to prove that they are serious musicians with heart and sincerity.
It must not have been easy for the band to launch into their first song of the night, Gallon Jug. The Chicago crowd seemed mostly skeptical, or to be kinder, unfamiliar with their work. But even from the first song, Bones made me a bit of a believer. His harmonies with the bassist, Snakebite, were smooth and sweet, and as the lyrics, “And if you got questions, I’ve only got guesses,” swept over the room, the audience leaned in a little closer, drawn in a bit more.
Not enough for Bones though. “Won’t you guys come a bit closer?” he implored the audience. “Can’t we make this more like St. Louis close, not like Brooklyn close? Not like Chicago close?” And the audience pressed forward, from the back, closer in.
There were a number of beautiful standout performances. The Schubas is not a large venue, so every drum pulse rocked the room, but Black Gold was the tightest and the loudest. But the heavy beats were tied together with gospel-esque keyboards, soft vocals and sweet lyrics, with Bones softy explaining, “Black gold, you got me where you want me…Inside out, keeping all the pieces, rolling on with that sound.” It was a poignant love song, a love letter.
They ended the set with Cobra Strips, the band’s single. One of their more rock-based songs, it’s a strong single and a strong set-closer. It ended the party with a bang, so to speak. And by the end of their set, the disinterested, hipster-“prove me what you got”-crowd was pumped, dancing and ready for more. Always leave them wanting more, isn’t that what they say in show business?
Well played, Sean Bones. Well played.