Bob Marley had about 80 children, and they all play reggae, and they're all good, and they all do it differently. Some of them apparently don't even hate one another the way siblings should -- three were slated for tonight's bill, and we got a fourth as sort of a free refill, I guess cuz he just happened to be hanging around.
My favorite Marley of the night was the youngest, grandson Jo Mersa, whose opening set added a fun carnival-mallet jerkiness to his 1970s-style dub and lilt. What had happened to the lilt? Reggae got all braggy and sweaty and cocky from the '80s onward, but li'l Jo Mersa found the lilt abandoned under a bush, and we thanked him for it. (Christopher Ellis, son of rocksteady pioneer Alton Ellis, found the lilt too, crooning a lot like Jimmy Cliff.)
The other Marleys veered backward and forward in history. The unannounced Julian Marley showed up for a few tunes, inviting closest comparisons to his gongfather vocally. Stout & sleepy Stephen "Ragga" Marley squatted at a hand drum and banged out the pre-reggae Nyabinghi acoustic riddims, heavy and revolutionary, with a snakecharmer soprano sax plunging us into deep jungle; dude will not be accused of commercialism. Closer Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, owner of the famous 6-foot dreadlocks, claimed the '90s dancehall hard-chant slice of the pie, let his guitarist cut loose with some metal fuzz, and made a down payment on his soon-come Vegas legacy.
"Now that we found love, what are we gonna do with it?" asked veteran '70s B-Marl tourmates Third World, puzzling us one way; T.W. electric cellist Stephen "Cat" Coore's delightful fugue of Bach and Bob puzzled us in a whole different way. That's okay, we were not here for science.
Bob Marley's ghost was a dickens of a presence, going boo about a dozen times as every artist covered the late patriarch every which way, from "Exodus" to "Redemption Song" and every biblical chapter in between. Klieg lights crossed overhead. Jah was praised. Banners waved. Who was that little kid grappling with the Jamaican flag? Great-grandson, gotta be.
PHOTOS BY FUZZY GONG AND D.D. DREDD.