“We’re groovin’ / There’s nothin’ like roots reggae music.”
Rebelution’s early afternoon ACL set was, for better or worse, a demonstration of those lyrics brought to life. If you came to the fest to get your groove on–to, say, take off your shirt, shake your tail feather in slow motion, and wave your arms in the aromatic air–then the Santa Barbara, California, six-piece was for you.
The band took the stage with promise, bringing an upbeat, engaging energy via trumpet, saxophone, keys, acoustic guitar, and pulsating drums and bass. Singer/guitarist Eric Rachmany repeatedly called out to the crowd, forgoing the common ACL acronym and urging “Austin City Limits” to wave its hands in the air and sing along to feel-good lines like “We’ll be dreaming safe and sound” and “Turn it up / I wanna lose it.”
But nobody ever lost it. Instead of building on the audience’s sunny mood and grooving goodwill, Rebelution settled into a loose, laid back set. Rachmany mentioned “healing the nation” in a song but never took the opportunity between jams to address any specifics of what needs healing and how. (I found myself longing for 1990s-era Rage Against the Machine and frontman Zack de la Rocha’s epic, boldly pro-Zapatista rants.)
Rebelution is back for its second ACL Fest and certainly drew a sizable crowd. But knowing Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were across the park, throwing down one of the undisputed sets of the fest–even surprising the ACL audience with special guests from the University of Texas marching band–made Rebelution’s frat-hippie vibe that much less compelling.
Not that the band itself would notice. As the lyrics go on “The Sky Is the Limit: “You say I’m a fool / I say whatever / I’m in it for the good vibes together / and the love lasts forever.”