By Kyle Scalise
I had heard good things about Ease Up, a San Diego band performing as part of the two week Mammoth Reggae Festival, but when I arrived on Friday, Feb. 1 at The Tap, the dive setting had me second-guessing the legitimacy of the show at hand. This was the first night of the Reggae Fest, and I had to wonder if it would be a successful production.
Tap Owner Mike Wilson made it clear that his wish for the Mammoth Reggae Festival was to bring remarkable music to Mammoth, providing another choice for entertainment to the option-starved Mammoth music goer. Each night of the festival was hosted by KMMT radio DJ Katie Mac, who promoted the show alongside Wilson. The two set out to bring the series to Mammoth as a benefit for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, with proceeds from nightly raffles going directly to the foundation.
My cynicism began to subside when the band arrived. The act of the performers tuning equipment sparked my interest as I sat and sipped my beverage, watching crowds of locals flood into the small, attic-like space, eager to hear the music. When the band began to play, the chatter of the crowd came to a sudden halt. Island melodies took control of the room. The upstairs acoustics were sensational, and the audience was immediately captivated by the group’s energy.
This was only the first night of the Reggae Fest, with a second performance from Ease Up the following night, assisted by special guest performer Moi from Tomorrows Bad Seeds. Local band Lava Moon set the second weekend’s tone with a ukulele-driven island set perfectly suited to the intimate space at The Tap.
The final night showcased headliner Jet West of San Diego. The group kicked off the evening with an up-tempo reggae jam, and the show quickly turned into a dance party. Playing a cocktail of covers and originals, Jet West presented a perfect ending to the two-week festival, closing on a high note that had the audience asking for more.
The venue may have been small, but the music was amazing. The Mammoth Reggae Festival delivered incredible local and visiting bands well worth the $5 cover.
The Tap is located on Main Street next to John’s Pizza and above the Outlaw Saloon.
(Photo: Katie McWilliams)