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Review: The Dirty Heads @ Wellmont Theater 7.25.14

When the house announcer told the audience about the emergency exits, a handful of people joyfully raised their arms and pointed around the venue on cue.  The seemingly hyperactive crowd was awaiting a night of reggae, and the long line outside of the Wellmont Theater was a grand indication of the pure excitement set for the evening. While the show was indoors, the vibe that night made it feel as if the packed house was hanging out at Venice Beach on a perfect summer night. Some in attendance were already planning to head out to the tour's stop at the Stone Pony Summerstage down in Asbury Park the following night.


"Who here from Montclair smokes weed?", asked Katastro frontman Andy Chaves during his band's opening set. Hailing from Arizona, the band was a perfect fit for a night dedicated to summer's majestic energy. For their first time playing New Jersey, Katastro certainly got a grand response from the observing audience with cuts like "That Place You Know" and "Burn With Me". When Andy, who sported a flat microphone, asked the crowd "Would you burn with me?" during the track "Burn With Me", it was safe to say that a handful of folks were willing to take him up on that offer.


Unlike Katastro, Aer are very familiar with the Garden State; the Boston act recently wowed crowds at this year's Skate & Surf Festival. Accompanied by DJ Smiles, vocalists David von Mering and Carter Schultz exploded on stage with high voltage energy. Carter frantically bounced around the stage while spitting lines like "Still stayin’ stoned like Joss/ often misconstrued as a student but I’m a boss" during the opening track "Whatever We Want". Tracks like "She'll Miss It" and "Floats My Boat" got everyone at the Montclair venue bouncing around, but the highlight of their set was a raucous cover of The Isley Brothers' classic "Shout", which had David strumming along on his guitar.


"Don't be shy, Jersey. We came to see you now," said Pepper bassist Bret Bollinger, and if you didn't know what city or state you were in that night, the trio kept you notified throughout their set. Summer is usually the perfect time for the reggae rock band to unleash their musical prowess to their fans, but the gentleman unfortunately missed two summers of touring. They certainly had the chance to make it up to the Garden State with two back to back performances. Along with guitarist Kaleo Wassman and drummer Yesod Williams, the band jammed through cuts such as "Fuck Around (All Night)" from their recent self-titled album, "Bring Me Along" from their 2006 release No Shame, and "Too Much" from their 2002 debut album Kona Town.  After the finale "No Control", Bret and Kaleo circled around the venue and gave high fives to fans, both old and new.

Twelve years is a long time to wait until releasing a debut album, but fortunately for The Dirty Heads, it happened at the right place and the right time. Forming in 1996, the band went through the typical major label conflict, but they managed to find the proper team in Executive Music Group to release their debut album Any Port In A Storm in 2008. Landing a deal with Five Seven Music, a sub-label of Eleven Seven Music, the band elevated even higher with 2012's Cabin By The Sea, which featured the fan favorites "Spread Too Thin" and the title track. The band's newest album Sounds of Change debuted at number 8 on the Billboard Top 200, making it their biggest Billboard debut yet.


At around 11:10pm, the lights went out, signaling the start of The Dirty Heads set. A minute later, the lights came back on, leaving a packed crowd confused at the situation at hand. The loyal but somewhat restless audience tried to make the time go by with a rousing rendition of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". At 11:25pm, the audience got what they paid to see when vocalists Jared “Dirty J” Watson and Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell jolted on stage to open with the track "Hip Hop Misfits" from their debut album.  The hop hop side of the band, noticeably tracks like "Franco Eyed" and "Burn Show" from their new album, has the kind of vivacious flavor that would fit in nicely alongside rappers like Danny Brown and Action Bronson.


While the hip hop tracks got their crowd to their feet, the band certainly know how to bring everyone to a swaying state of euphoria with tracks like "Dance All Night" and "Spread Too Thin". "Cabin By The Sea", however, seemed to be the overall message of the night. With its beach-laden lyrics ("When the sun goes down/ We can start a fire to sing around"), it was certainly something that the crowd knew a lot about, and The Dirty Heads simply wanted to be the soundtrack to their happiness.