Yes, there is a reggae scene in Boston. And yes, it’s actually good.
This past Thursday I got a chance to meet up with The Dub Down, a local reggae band that’s been playing Bull McCabe’s in Union Square every Thursday for the past three years. Although the band sings a lot of roots reggae, its members are about as diverse as they come.
“We could have called ourselves The United Nations because there are people from all different countries,” jokes Skiffy, the band’s only Jamaican member, who got his nickname in a card game (because he was “skiffin’ de cards”).
Alongside Skiffy there are four other singers in the band and a handful of drummers, guitarists, bassists, and keyboardists—all with different Italian, Japanese, Indian, and Jamaican roots.
The band explains that there is “cross-pollination” between musicians and bands at Bull McCabe’s where it’s not uncommon for musicians from other reggae bands in the area to join onstage for a song or two. The band’s open-door policy reflects the overall loose, inclusive atmosphere at the venue: It’s definitely a “No Woman, No Cry” type scene, where you can feel comfortable going alone without feeling like you’re there by yourself. It’s an all ages, races, and sexualities crowd where hipsters and hippies dance side by side with preppy white kids and dreadlocked brothers.
“Any kind are welcome here,” says Jimmy T, one of the band’s lead singers. “If there is an issue, we work it out as a community.”
Throughout the night I feel no qualms about chatting it up with randoms or dancing by myself alongside many others doing the same. During the set break, the band mingles freely outside with the crowd. Freestyle rapping, clouds of smoke, and loose conversation convene on the sidewalk. Akira, one of the band’s vocalists, plays reggae on his iPhone and a hip-hop dance circle evolves in the cold on the street.
Although by the end of the night the venue is packed, Jimmy T says he considers this his night off: “This band was formed truly organically,” he says. “No pressure, no rehearsals, just a night off for all of us to come play with our friends and family.”
Bottom line: Reggae at Bull McCabe’s is a solid scene with great live music in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
The Dub Down is part of a larger scene at a space that invites reggae three nights a week. Tuesday night presents Skiffy and the Ghetto People; Thursday night it’s The Dub Down, and Sunday night features Dub Apocalypse. All go on at 10 p.m.
Although the bands’ styles vary, there’s a similar communal following among each reggae night at Bull McCabe’s. Plus, Skiffy says, there’s a crowd that comes just for the food.
“I recommend the Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich,” he says with a smirk.
THE DUB DOWN
EVERY THURSDAY AT BULL MCCABE’S
366A SOMERVILLE AVE.