The Wailers and Lola Rising Brought Reggae Love to the Aggie

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Jonson Kuhn | New SCENE

I was at the Aggie Theatre on Sunday, April 3, and I hate to have to admit this, but it was actually my first time seeing a show at the Aggie. If you don’t know the story behind the place, it’s actually quite fascinating; it’s literally been around for over 100 years and is considered the most historic venue in all of Fort Collins.  It’s a beautiful turn of the century historic Old Town building that dates back as far as 1906.  Believe it or not, they actually started out as a furniture store which then later became a movie theater. They stopped showing movies somewhere in the mid-nineties and soon after was reborn as the live music venue we all know and love today.

I saw that The Wailers were playing on this particular Sunday night, and tickets were only $40, so I figured why not, it’s not like you get a chance to see a world-famous band every day. I don’t want to potentially ruin anything for any of you, but I feel it’s probably important to mention that Bob Marley is no longer with The Wailers, he died quite some time ago, BUT that shouldn’t ever deter you from catching this legendary band whenever they come through your town because they’re still tight as ever and still deliver one of the more electrifying shows I’ve ever seen.

The opener was Denver’s own Lola Rising, an Island Folk Rock band that are also known as “Jahawaiian.”  The band’s name is said to be inspired from a song front man, Paul Medina Guevara, wrote about the passing of his `Lola`, which means Grandmother in Filipino.  The word `Rising` is meant to evoke images of spirituality and embraces the human condition. They definitely know how to capture a crowd’s attention as the whole place was dancing and singing right along with their honest poetry and multi-part harmonies.

Usually a six-piece, but this particular night they were a five-piece, they’ve quickly risen to some degree of fame with dates right alongside The Wailers, Matisyahu, The Green, The Wailing Souls, The Movement, Trevor Hall and Rusted Root.  If their name is familiar, don’t be surprised because in addition to making regular stops at the Aggie, they also perform all over the state at popular venues such as The Bluebird, Washington’s, The Gothic, and The Fox. They were even voted Denver’s Best Reggae Band by The Denver Westword in 2019 and 303 magazine voted Lola Rising’s single “Colorado,” as one of the best folk songs in 2017, selecting their music video to be in the 303 Magazine Music Video Screening at the 2018 Denver Film Festival.

Lola Rising Performs at the Aggie. Photo by Jonson Kuhn.

They have an EP out right now entitled Moving Forward which is said to have pulled inspiration from basements of haunted hotels in Wyoming to the beaches of California; it’s a musical conversation about love, loss, struggle and protecting Mother Earth.  So, in the profound words of the great Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing and go check these guys out already, won’t you?

Now then, for the main event: it’s a toss-up sometimes with these older bands and you don’t always know what to expect, especially when there’s a mix of original members with new ones, but I’m happy to report that there are zero such concerns when it comes to The Wailers.  They’re careful to play the hits that Bob Marley is most remembered for, but they also do a pretty good job of balancing that out with new original music that fits in seamlessly.

The Wailers at the Aggie Theatre. Photo by Jonson Kuhn.

To be clear, The Wailers Band was formed by original Wailers member Aston Barrett in 1989, which is considered to be a spinoff from the original Bob Marley and the Wailers band, as there have been a few different variations of spinoffs over the years.  Aston has since retired but his son Aston Barrett Jr. on drums still proudly carries the torch. Another notable name within the lineup is lead guitarist and vocalist Donald Kinsey, who also spent time playing with Bob Marley and the original Wailers.

The Wailers at the Aggie Theatre. Photo by Jonson Kuhn.

In 2020 The Wailers released a new album entitled One World, which marked their return to the studio after a 25-year hiatus; the album went on to be nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category.  Sunday night’s encore featured the popular single from that album called “One World, One Prayer”, which was written by famed producer Emilio Estefan.

The Wailers at the Aggie Theatre. Photo by Jonson Kuhn.

It really was a phenomenal show and despite being formed in Jamaica and despite being around since the 70’s and having undergone tremendous lineup changes and transitions, they still do a great job of making each performance intimate and personal, making everyone on the dance floor feel as though they’ve been along for the entire ride.  The Wailers are still out on tour at the moment, so if you missed them this time around you should definitely keep an eye on their upcoming dates.  And while you’re at it, be sure to keep the other eye on the Aggie’s calendar, as well because they have a lot more exciting shows on the way!

The Wailers at the Aggie Theatre. Photo by Jonson Kuhn.