By the end of the night, the aroma of dank weed and smoke rose above the crowd as arms swayed in the air to the beat of the reggae music. People sang along with SOJA and danced in rhythm with the throb of the bass and drums. The vibe was truly incredible with such an eclectic gathering of people.

The night started out as any other Reggae Tuesday at Mongo’s in Grover Beach. The sound of the pool table resonated in the room – until the music began, that is. Then people gathered around the dance floor, eventually filling it up so it was almost impossible to get from one side of the room to the other. Some closed their eyes during the performance and moved in time, obviously lost deep in the sound, while others had their arms around each other smiling and dancing.

Rebelution was the opening band for SOJA. Hailing from Santa Barbara, they got their start playing shows in Isla Vista. Their album “Courage to Grow” was awarded by iTunes the 2007 Editor’s Choice for Best Reggae Album.

“If tonight is anything like the last three nights, we expect a lot of energy mixed with depth and people listening to the messages we and SOJA share throughout the night,” said Marley Williams, bass player for Rebelution, to the crowd.

“My favorite part of playing is looking out into the crowd and seeing people having a good time, singing along with the words and dancing,” added Rory Carey, keyboardist for the group.

SOJA is heavily influenced by classic roots reggae, infusing rock into their music. The sound was amazing, defined by their exploding guitar riffs and intense drum solos throughout the concert.

During their set, they played songs off “Courage to Grow” and older songs such as “Change the System.” Carey jammed on his keyboard with his eyes closed most of the time and a smile constantly on his face. Eric Rachmany, lead singer and guitarist, shredded on his solos and his facial expressions were priceless when he involved the crowd.

The lyrics to their song “Feelin Alright” start out: “Well it’s about that time, for us to look around, and meet somebody new.” Fittingly, people began to look around and make friends with their neighbors. The positive feeling in their songs is catchy, and those who didn’t know the chorus at first knew it by the end of the song.

SOJA took the stage half an hour later after Rebelution broke down their gear. People were anxiously waiting for them to play, some of them never leaving the dance floor.

Kenny Brownell, who plays percussion for SOJA, was walking amok, holding a drink in his hand – some sort of concoction of Hefeweizen and fruit juice his sound technician had given him.

“I can’t wait to get up there and play; I know I do this for a living, but it’s not work to me,” Brownell said. “I love having small crowds such as this, because the vibes can be just as good, if not greater, than our large venues.”

As the band was doing sound check, people clapped and whistled. As soon as the first song started, lighters flickered and the haze of smoke became apparent.

The maximum occupancy of Mongo’s is 300, and the venue was packed to capacity. Some people had to stand outside, listening to the music from there because they couldn’t get in.

Jacob Hemphill, SOJA’s lead singer and guitarist, got the crowd going with one of their more popular songs, “Peace in Time of War,” by having the crowd sing back to the band.

Listening to SOJA is truly a unique experience, and the messages of peace and overcoming the system were a good way to end Super Tuesday. There was a feeling of love and change in the air. Or maybe it was just the weed.

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