Photo courtesy of Josue Rivas.

Keenan Donath
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I heard my favorite song when I was a freshman in high school.

Though both my height and political views have changed drastically since then, my love for Tribal Seeds’s soulful single “Dawn of Time” has stayed with me. So when I learned of the band’s scheduled performance on Sept. 3 at SLO Brewing Co., I knew I had to be there.

Tribal Seeds enters town fresh off recent tour stops in Dallas, Tuscon and San Diego, all on the last leg of their ambitious 29-day, 22-show national tour. The band’s “Representing” summer tour comes just in time to promote their most recent album of the same name.

As the much anticipated followup to the 2011 EP Soundwaves, “Representing” dropped on May 13 and has been met with widespread acclaim, thanks in large part to guest appearances on the album by reggae legends Don Carlos and Mykal Rose. It did not take long for the album to debut at the top spot on Billboard’s Reggae Charts.

But for anyone who had been following the band in previous years, this recent influx in attention and success came as no surprise.

Formed as a side project by brothers Steve and Tony-Ray Jacobo in 2005, the San Diego-based band has been spreading good vibes ever since, most notably with their self-titled debut album in 2008 (a record that is a mainstay on my road trip playlists). With their 2009 followup The Harvest frequently regarded as an equally infectious collection of songs, Tribal Seeds unofficially became the staple of the reggae-rock genre, a genre they have helped reach peak levels of popularity in recent years.

The night at SLO Brewing Co. started with the opening band, The Expanders. Taking the stage well after 7 p.m., this Los Angeles-based roots-reggae band had the crowd swaying on-call.

Next up for the night was New Kingston, a Brooklyn-based four-piece band comprising a father and three sons. Keyboard and vocals mainstay Tahir Panton shredded on the keytar; brothers Stephen and Courtney provided the ultimate complement to father and bassist Courtney Sr.

With sound check lingering, Tribal Seeds took the stage just a shade past 10 p.m. The group opened their show with “Blood Clot,” a powerful song from the recent album that features the likes of reggae legend Don Carlos. While Carlos was not in attendance at Wednesday night’s show, the opening track proved enough to capture the attention of even a possibly medicated audience. Soon after “Blood Clot,” the band transitioned into their growing vault of fan favorites. “All I Know” from 2009 album The Harvest proved to be a big success among the central coast crowd.

Provided photo of previous shows of Tribal Seeds. Photo courtesy of Josue Rivas.
Tribal Seeds was formed by two brothers in 2005. | Photo courtesy of Josue Rivas

Between huge puffs emanating from the smoke machine, Tribal Seeds executed their recently fashionable single, “Fill It Up,” that included timely live vocals from tour member New Kingston.

Followed by classic “Beautiful Mysterious” and my harrowed “Dawn of Time,” Tribal Seeds started striking chords with more than just their guitars. In the midst of their set, one might wonder where the passionate pathos of this band hatched.

Keyboardist and occasional vocalist E.N Young attempted to explain the group’s dynamic.

“All of us grew up with all different kinds of genres of music,” Young said. “Some guys listened to NOFX and punk. I grew up listening to Dave Matthews Band and Van Morrison … Reggae music is what unites us all, and we have all been into reggae music since a young age … All of us has reggae as the base genre, you know?”

Influences aside, Tribal Seeds successfully seeks out its own section of the rock-reggae genre. Their unique sound and righteously rebellious message have ringed true for a significant portion of the California population.

“I am trying to speak passion, love and peace,” Young said. “I am trying to spread that peace and love with everyone.”

Before the penultimate performance of the night, lead Tribal Seeds singer Steven Rene Jacobo instructed the crowd to chant back “fuck the system,” a phrase prominently popularized by the politically active band. This was followed by single “Run the Show” and what the audience thought was an abrupt end to the show.

But the band had different intentions, emerging once more from the darkening stage to play their last hit of the night, “Vampire.” But what was least traditional about the rendition was the impromptu collaborations. Members from opening bands The Expanders and New Kingston took the stage as the audience was treated to an entertaining ending to their night of reggae festivities.

I left SLO Brewing Co. with great respect for Tribal Seeds. Not only had they fulfilled my admittedly steep expectations, but they had also re-instilled the pleasure I experienced when I discovered reggae music through their first album early in my high school career.

While much has changed, Wednesday night proved that not everything has.

Tribal Seeds plays two nights at SLO Brew this September | Photo courtesy of Grafx Photography.

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