As a dancehall journalist I get to see many Reggae shows coming to the Toronto area. I’ll admit that over the years, I have witnessed the Reggae stage show scene enter into a state of regression in terms of failing to showcase any new or rarely seen before artists, rather there is a high repeat-return factor for the same shows and artists coming to town. Over the past ten years or so, many artists coming to town are artists that have been here many times before, for example, Sanchez performing at Jamaica Day; this will mark his third time performing in Toronto this year alone! Name the artist – Capleton, Beres, Freddie, I-Octane, Yellowman, Beenieman, Cham, Cocoa-Tea. Chances are they’ve been here before, which is why I often don’t get overexcited when I attend many of these stage shows that promoters have to offer. Not in the case of Chronixx.
I saw Chronixx in Toronto his first time here at a packed up Opera House in May of 2013; a great show at a time when Chronixx was still relatively unknown to commercial fans. But packing up the Opera House (1,100 people capacity for extremely packed events) was one thing but selling out the Sound Academy (2,800 people capacity when over packed) would be no easy feat for any Reggae Artist, including Chronixx I thought, especially seeing he did not have the traditional army of opening artists designed to strengthen a show in the eyes of the promoters and ticket buying public.
But as a testament to the power of Chronixx, the show sold out (or you could pay $80 at the door IF you arrived early. Door tickets sold out quickly) – as a ticket vendor, I tell no lie when I tell you that I could have sold one hundred additional tickets just on the show day alone. All of a sudden, the buzz in the city was all about Chronixx (calls to ReggaeMania.com for Chronixx tickets were coming in every two minutes), perhaps a delayed build up after blockage from the Redemption Reggae Festival that came a week earlier starring Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley, Shaggy and the likes.
From the outside looking in, things seemed organized. There was a long and steady line up at the doors, and lots of people were rolling in, making promoters watching it all from outside joyous. Besides, it was a beautiful Friday night where the weather was nice in Toronto. I soon realized that what I thought was an early11:15 arrival time (doors opened 10 PM) for Lisa West and myself, was in fact not that early at all. The party had already started, and the venue appeared already close to full, with people getting settled in, vibing to a different style of DJ’ing courtesy of Yaadcore Sound repping for the very first time in Canada.
Yaadcore didn’t seem phased by anything this night. His style was cool, relaxed and laid back. Musically his selections were okay, a bit all over the place at times, but everything still fitting nicely under a love ‘n culture umbrella. For those used to that ‘other’ style of DJ’ing where songs last no longer than a few seconds before being replaced by a new one, well – that style would be M.I.A on this event. The crowd in attendance at Chronixx (perhaps 2,800-plus people) for the most part, were feeling this DJ’s ‘downtown’ or ‘alternative’ DJ style – other DJ’s that followed also had to switch from their regular hype to a slower, more conservative, and less exciting (to me) style of DJ’ing. For those unaware, Yaadcore is Protoje’s personal DJ on the road, and also plays at Dub Club in Kingston, Jamaica. He is credited as the first DJ to play Chronixx, Protoje, and Kabaka Pryamid on Jamaican radio.
Things moved quickly throughout the night, this was one show where there would be no long wait, no wasting time. Next up was the Riddim Up Band, who after doing their warm up set, would not leave the stage until night’s end. Blessed would be the first artist introduced to the stage by the night’s MC’s “Natty B” (ZionTrain) and Jason (Phillipino).
Blessed’s show (12:20 PM start time) was on point, and he had no problems on this night winning over an audience who understood, appreciated, and was moved by his talent, performance and words of wisdom. Ironically, Blessed had performed almost the exact same show (and same speeches) as he did the previous Saturday at Toronto Redemption Reggae Festival, except this time he was greeted like a star by the massive – sweet!
Blessed preached to the audience about senseless local gun violence, about why “Black lives matter”, and stressed that we as Black people have to stop killing each other. One of his biggest forwards came before his performance of “Empress (Natural African Black Woman…)” when he advised men in the audience to treat their empresses the same way they would treat their own mother. Blessed sounded better on this night, more seasoned and more confident than his Toronto Reggae Fest warm up the week before – now motors were in full gear.
After about a 12-minute show, Blessed was joined next on stage by Lindo P. After going back and forth a bit, Lindo would officially close all opening act duties with a performance that mostly focused on Ganga including a song about a ganga-baby girlfriend. Lindo also preached consciousness, and demonstrated his rebellious anti-authority nature as well as his ‘dislike for police’. He spoke about his frustration with “Babylon”, a system he described as “killing the poor”.
When all was said and done, Lindo P. would be remembered as ‘that artist’ who lit a ganga spliff on stage and continued smoking it during the entirety of his performance. Lindo sounded good as usual, although on another night at another place, that same performance would’ve bus the place. I kept waiting for that huge forward during his show, and although he got a good one on his exit, it was not on the same amplitude as Blessed’s performance. Similar to Blessed, I will say that Lindo was also guilty of ‘repeating’ – seen that same show already Lindo. Still a good show for the many who don’t get around as often as yours truly. LOL.
When it came down to show time (1:15 am), Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Band were masterful on the stage, delivering a tight and well paced two hour performance that was entertaining from start to finish. There was no smiling at first; Chronixx was a “serious” and focused performer, somewhat static behind his mic during his first few minutes on stage, and turning his back to the audience after every song maintaining his cool demeanor, not getting too hyped. While pacing himself out, he would deliver his songs with extreme accuracy while feeling out his crowd. Once he and his band became comfortable on stage, they would soon prove how much they loved performing.
Chronixx explained to his fans that his show was “divided” into two parts; the first half for the fans who came to hear the “hits”, and the second to ‘please themselves’, because they loved the stage. It was at this post-midway point when the show went dub-style and many of the tunes performed were new or unheard free style dub material. This was when Chronixx let loose his lox and let himself go for his fans, even smiling occasionally now and then. It was in this later part of the concert that we saw the best of Chronixx and where he really put on a show, dancing, skanking and hi-kicking on stage, similar to how Bob Marley used to perform. It seemed that first, he had to feel out, trust and approve of his audience before unleashing in front of them.
Chronixx made the occasional revolutionary speech during the show but focused mainly on delivering tunes performed in perfect key and harmony with little rest or time wasted in between. The audience loved it, singing every word to every familiar song with fresh smiles on their faces (his voice is so tranquil). And what tune went over best? Overall I would say “They Don’t Know” probably gave him his biggest forward, but there were so many highlights that many will sport their own separate opinions of which songs earned the biggest forwards (“Ain’t No Giving In” and “Smile Jamaica” also received big forwards).
By the time the show was done, Chronixx had performed virtually every song from his limited library of material and was kind enough to return for an encore, unheard of for Reggae artists in this young stage in their careers. For me, it was just a pleasure to be in the front row, having the ‘best seat in the house’, with Chronixx performing directly in front of me and sounding as good live as he did in studio! As I snapped pics and recorded videos, I could virtually look him in the eye, read his vibes, moods and expressions as he performed.
Big up Chronixx for bringing his beautiful music, conscious lyrical prowess, and amazing vibe to Toronto – it’s not often that I get to experience a Reggae stage show performance on this level (normally you have to go to Jamaica for this). It’s amazing how quickly Chronixx has risen, a testament to his beautiful lyrics and music that he has been able to create and perform during a time in the industry when so many other artists are struggling to establish themselves and be heard.
And big up the Zinc Fence Band – paid tribute to by Chronixx when he took time out to introduce each member to the audience in a freestyle dj-pattern, truly brilliant and rarely seen. And finally, big up all the fans, promoters (IREMEMBER – the organizers who made this show happen), staff and everybody who played a part in making this show the success it was. Chronixx, who turns 24 this October, is here to stay, and as Dancehall’s newest and brightest star, he is now on a lifetime mission, essentially ‘chosen’ to help lead and help keep Dancehall music and culture alive and vibrant worldwide. Enjoy the Pics and Videos.
Watch This ReggaeMania.com Video featuring Blessed, Lindo P. and Chronixx live at Sound Academy.