An Appointment at Higher Ground with John Brown’s Body

I woke up on Friday and looked at my hands, still marked with the Higher Ground under-21 “X.” Scratching my head released the stale smoke locked in my hair and now my dreams were fading. I could remember last night. John Brown’s Body (JBB) played one mean set of some of their best reggae tracks. I still felt those reverberating vocals swimming through me.

This was my third time seeing the group. The first was at St. Lawrence University in a tiny coffee shop crammed with twisted college kids chewing mushrooms, and the second was at Northern Lights in Clifton Park, New York. I preferred the new Higher Ground as a venue. It was my first experience there and it was impressive. The staff was kind and welcoming, and the atmosphere was ripe with vibrations from a diverse crowd: a mix of students and parents. It seemed as if the youth vigor was rubbing off on the adults. Or perhaps the aftertaste of past decades, still strong in the older concertgoers, found its way into the bodies of my generation.

Opener Paranoid Social Club encouraged a small mosh pit with their hard-rocking songs, such as one ironic tune about committing acts of violence toward a loved one. Another drunken anthem included the lyrics, “We all got wasted, we got fucked up and wasted…” and the band paused to take shots during the chorus. It wasn’t what I expected from the former members of the Rustic Overtones, being a huge fan of their release “Viva Nueva” in 2001. Luckily it was my only disappointment.

I admit my own energy was lacking as some nasty sickness rocked my head like a wrecking ball against concrete. I had been living on Echinacea and Vitamin C. Fletcher Allen denied my request for an IV pumping orange juice through my veins. As a result, my diet resembled that of someone overcoming scurvy. It still wasn’t working. So I wrote myself a prescription for 100 Mg of dub (to be taken orally).

When a sound engineer posted the set list I was happy to see some of my favorites appeared, including “33 RPM,” “Follow in the Shadow,” and “Cool Water.” JBB also played “Make it Easy” from their upcoming album “Pressure Points” to be released April 19th. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Kevin Kinsella admitted to fans with a smile that the production involved a lot of chronic smoking. Based on the band’s track record in the studio and their ability to capture the passion of a live show in a record, it’s safe to say that “Pressure Points” will be anything but painful.

I got hypnotized by the music, sucked into the beat, and lost contact with my senses for some vague amount of time. All I remember clearly is the voices of the instruments sticking heavy in my head and a girl with no shoes. The keyboard and horns were tearing through the dark and the bass lines stomped around after them. And when I closed my eyes I could see it all happening – the form and fury of hundreds of notes hanging desperately in the air and falling on our heads like snowflakes, each unique and beautiful. Nearing the end of the show I got lightheaded. I must have been dancing and moving through the thick sweaty crowd for over an hour; I think my bacteria got dehydrated. So I made my way to the bar where Higher Ground had a stack of clean cups next to a water cooler. (Whoever was responsible for that, thank you.) After sucking down two tall glasses of water, my head cleared and my body was revived. I was cured.