There is nothing better than hearing a real tight band deliver a top-notch performance in its own inimitable genre. That’s what I got to enjoy last Thursday evening at the West Theater when Rocket and Gizzae, a Chicago-based reggae band, took the stage.

Although the crowd was sparce (what? not a lot of reggae fans here in the Twin Ports?) it was enthusiastic. And it wasn’t long before at least half the attendees were out of their seats, dancing in the aisles and hooting their approval.

The band that night consisted of lead singer Brian “Rocket” Rock on five-string bass, Frankie “J” Parker on trombone, percussion and vocals, Sty Larocque on drums, Martindale Olive on guitar and vocals, keyboardist Joseph (didn’t get the last name) and Rocket’s son, Isaiah Rock also on keyboards. Having two double keyboards in play along with the trombone, gave a unique sound to the standard reggae mix.

According to its website there is a revolving set of players that tour with them, with various instruments changing as well. In the next few months the band is making the rounds throughout the Midwest; they headed to the Cedar Center in Minneapolis for a Friday gig. Wish I could have tagged along ‘cause one night of reggae just isn’t enough.

Thankfully I have the 16th Annual Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival to look forward to on Saturday, July 16. (Check out online.)

My taste for reggae music was born back in 1979-80, the academic year I spent in Trondheim, Norway, as an exchange student. The university students there were wild for Bob Marley, who was at the peak of his popularity. Every weekend at the student union reggae was spun in the dance hall. No one, least of all me, could get enough of it. (The only alternative then, it seemed, was traditional Norwegian folk tunes.) Sadly, Marley died of a skin disease in 1981; yet his legacy endures.

Last summer I jumped at the chance to take in the day-long 15th annual Reggae festival. Basically it had been 41 years since I was immersed in that sound. What a joyful, fun event it was, with lots of great people watching, especially on the dance floor, in addition to the music. I hope the Limbo contest is re-enacted this July.

So last Thursday was a teaser for all of us who respond to the rootsy rhythms of reggae. I must confess that I did not recognize many of the songs played or understand most of the lyrics. Among the ones I did were, “Roots Like a Lion” and “Roots Rock Reggae.” And then there was Rocket and Gizzae’s version of “That’s the Way (I Like It).” It really didn’t seem to matter either way; the music just seeped into one’s body and sitting still was not an option.

Surprisingly, the band had no CDs on sale that evening, or any other merchandise for that matter. However, some items can be ordered online at

Janna Dreher, organizer of the reggae festival at Bayfront was in attendance, dancing along with everyone else (including that wild and crazy guy, West owner Bob Boone!).

It turned out the area down in front of the band turned out to be a decent dance floor. Maybe next time the West hosts a band of this quality more folks will turn out.

Brian “Rocket” Rock on his five-string bass. Photo by Jill Fisher.