Arlington, Va., may be an unlikely breeding ground for music made to “Chant Down Babylon,” but such is the case of America’s hottest reggae band, SOJA, short for Soldiers of Jah Army. On Friday, the band returns to Western New York to headline the second installment of the Rockin’ on the River free concert series at picturesque Gratwick Riverside Park (1300 River Road, North Tonawanda).
An intensely engaging nine-piece band led by childhood friends Jacob Hemphill (vocals, guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass), their people-powered message is built on Hemphill’s populist response to the lessons of his father, who explained the ways of the world through his work from Washington to Africa on behalf of the International Monetary Fund.
The last time SOJA graced a Western New York stage was Artpark in 2011, when the group outshined headliner O.A.R. This time, they’re the prime-time billing, with opening support from kindred spirits in Rochester’s Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Buffalo-based groove-rock road warriors Aqueous and fellow locals Skyepilot. The show starts about 6 p.m. More info on venue and VIP packages is at ntrockinontheriver.com.
– Seamus Gallivan