Reggae-punk band Pepper returns to SLO Brewing Co. tonight for an exclusive, intimate acoustic show — something the trio hasn’t explored until now in their 14 years together.
For the first show in a miniature six-stop tour along the California coast, the band is returning to SLO Brew after a long break from playing at the venue. Drummer Yesod Williams said when the band first moved to California in the late ’90s, the band played at SLO Brew all the time.
“We’d go up to Santa Barbara and play in Isla Vista, and then we’d go up to San Luis Obispo,” Williams said. “Believe it or not, we’ve probably played there many more times than anywhere else in the whole country.”
But why the San Luis Obispo revival? On the band’s last tour, Williams had the idea of adding a new dynamic to the band — an all-acoustic set much like an MTV Unplugged session. Being that San Luis Obispo is the old stomping ground for the band, they thought it would be a perfect place to come back to its roots — California roots, that is.
“We’ve been there from when it was SLO Brew to Downtown Brew and then back to SLO Brew,” Williams said. “We’re getting back to those places where we used to play all the time.”
The band, originally hailing from the Big Island of Hawaii, is comprised of guitarist Kaleo Wassman, bassist Bret Bollinger and Williams.
Wassman and Bollinger met in middle school and started playing music, and after recycling a number of drummers, the two found Williams. The band packed its bags in ’99, moved to San Diego, and have been making its mark on the California coastal music scene ever since.
San Luis Obispo is no exception. Today’s show is already sold out, which may be a reflection of popularity among the Cal Poly crowd, which most fans attribute to the band’s stage presence. Graphic communication freshman Andrea Hernandez said when seeing the band on stage, she can just tell the guys want to be there.
“You can tell they have a good time on stage, and they love what they’re doing,” Hernandez said. “They love to make their crowd feel welcome, and pump them up.”
But will an all-acoustic set still pump the crowd up? Hernandez said she thinks so.
“I think it’s still the same Pepper, the same three guys that we all know and love, so I think they’ll still manage to get the crowd pumped and make a lasting impression,” Hernandez said.
Environmental management and protection senior Andrew Lanterman, who saw the band rock out at Cal Poly a few years ago, said he still remembers how the group “brought the party.”
Lanterman said he holds Pepper close to his heart not only because he’s learned a few of its songs on bass, but also because of its melodies.
“You have all these California and new-age reggae bands, and I just like their style — it’s unique compared to the rest,” Lanterman said.
The band members, who’ve been rehearsing for the last week, reworked several of their songs for an acoustic setting. Williams said he’s thrilled to give their songs new life.
“It’s a whole new beast, and the songs have taken a new life,” Williams said. “I think it will be more intimate — it’s pretty much going to be us playing on stage — but also just doing the whole storytelling thing. It will probably be the most personal Pepper show anyone will ever see up until now.”
After releasing ts most recent EP “Stitches” in October, the band may be carrying this new acoustic vibe into its next album, which has no set release date at this point in time.
“We’re kind of continuously working on newer stuff,” Williams said. “The plan is to work on this acoustic stuff and release an acoustic album.”
The band, who have played alongside 311, Snoop Dogg, The Wailers, The Offspring and Slightly Stoopid, will be sharing the stage with opener Josh Fischel, an acoustic artist whom the band has known for years.
“We’ve known him for a long time,” Williams said. “He just does his own solo acoustic thing, so it was perfect to invite him along.”
Fischel’s presence may also be a reason for the already sold-out show. Biological sciences senior Dean Preedeedilok said he’s drawn to Fischel not only because he’s a regular in Preedeedilok’s hometown of Long Beach, but also for his voice.
“It’s just really powerful,” Preedeedilok said. “He has a lot emotion in his voice — you can feel the raw power.”
Preedeedilok attributes the heavy fan base of Pepper to its lyrics — which he said are suitable for the college crowd.
“Reggae-rock is just feel-good and happy, and a lot of the kids in town can relate to it,” Preedeedilok said. “In a lot of the songs, the lyrics relate to having a good a time, and that’s what kids in SLO like to do.”
Doors for the show open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out.