It may surprise you to know that the members of New Kingston hail from New York (by way of Jamaica) and are not, in fact, from Florida. The New York natives tour the Sunshine state so often that I naively hoped they were from here, having caught them last year at the one off FloGrown Festival in Orlando. They recently played the West End Trading Company in Sanford and will return in March for the Reggae Rise Up festival in St. Petersburg.
I caught their sold out show at West End Trading Co. with openers NoNeed and SummerLong. The audience packed in to the cozy quarters of WETC prepared for some get-down Reggae music. SummerLong and NoNeed did not disappoint. NoNeed even took the opportunity to celebrate the birthday of sax/keyboard player, Cody Moore, while pumping out jam band style songs like “Dance My Reggae Girl” laden with ska and Reggae overtones. In the middle of that song the quartet paused for a beer break, sang happy birthday to Cody, then launched immediately and simultaneously back into “Dance My Reggae Girl” after saying “let’s see how well my band mates pay attention.” The song even has a few verses in Spanish “just because they can”.
New Kingston took the stage in the dark. The sounds of a tropical thunderstorm pushed over the sound system marked their arrival. The band, consisting of three brothers Tahir, Courtney Jr., and Stephen along with their father Courtney “Fadah P” Panton Sr. and touring member Kristoff Harmon, started jamming from the get go with a long lead into “Come From Afar”. Their rich Reggae roots music strengthened by the vocal harmonies produced by the brothers, an effect further heightened in the call-and-reply arrangement on “I Believe in Me”.
New Kingston’s songs inspired a lot of dancing, which kicked into a higher gear when they announced, “We’re going to do a little drum thing.” Courtneys Sr and Jr and Kristoff launched into a triple drum solo (“triolo”?). Anyone who reads my reviews or listens to the podcast knows how much I love the drums! This is what heaven sounds like.
Later on Courtney Jr. came out from behind his drumset to finish vocals on the song “I’m a Rebel”. He proceeded to bump fists and shake hands with the crowd from the front of the stage. Then he introduced the members of the band and said that playing music with his family is a “blessing” paying particular attention to dear dad, Courtney Sr. “One thing he taught me is that having a good foundation and a good role model is very important.” The world could probably use more of both to be sure. Courtney Sr. launched into a bass solo to show his approval. They closed their set with the combustible “Kingston Fyah” and basically ripped the roof the place.
New Kingston - "Kingston Fyah"
The room was still resonating with the positive vibes of New Kingston when The Movement took the stage. The Movement had the crowd with them from the jump opening with “Something to Say,” ably taking over from New Kingston.
The band stopped frequently between songs and I became friendly with the people around me during the breaks. Ultimately, I wound up leaving the show earlier than I had planned. I have debated back and forth over whether I should share why I left early. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, I decided that I should.
This was my first time in Sanford. Frequently, I attend shows solo and this was one of those shows. Very rarely does a venue make me feel unsafe or unwelcome. I have wandered alone through the woods of Suwannee, the fields of Bonnaroo, the crowded dancefloors of dozens of different clubs and have met mostly with friendly and welcoming people. At first, West End seemed no different. I chatted with many people that night. I had made friends with two guys in the back of the room who wanted to move closer to the stage. I overheard them talking about how best to get up front for The Movement and joked that I would follow them. They rejoined with “No, we’ll follow you!” and playfully pushed me in front of them. We continued joking with each other during breaks between songs and all was good until another one of their friends arrived. He proceeded to grind up against me when the music started. Looking around I saw it was not that type of dance party and that there was plenty of room around him to avoid pushing his pelvis into mine I asked him to “create some space.” He relented.
That is until I put my hair up in a bun. Being the hippie that I am, my hair is longish and I’ve figured out how to secure it in a bun without the use of clips or hair ties. This apparently fascinated the man behind me. I felt his fingers in my hair as he took it out of the bun.
I turned around and said “excuse me, please do not touch my hair.” and proceeded to wrap it back up because I didn’t want the smoke in the room getting “in my Vidal Sassoon”. Again, I felt his hand in my hair. Again, I turned around. This time I said, “are we going to have a problem?” and felt the blood come up into my face. I realized, perhaps a bit too late, that trying to have a stern but civil conversation with a drunk man in a crowded music venue was not going to work. I turned back to the front after informing him that I have studied Muay Thai and would be well within my rights to kick his ass. He apparently viewed this as a challenge, because for the third time I felt this man put his fingers on my head.
I spun, grabbed his wrist, and shook my index finger in his face before gliding out of the crowd to the bar. To their credit his friends were not egging him on. They hadn’t picked a side and I saw surprise register in one of their eyes and realized he had no idea what was going on. I decided to leave before they did pick a side, in case that side was their friend’s and not mine.
Ultimately, I left early because that was the only way I knew I would be safe. I did not want to run into this man again at the end of the show when he would be drunker and bolder than before. I did not want to fight one person nevermind three in a bar I had never been to before in a town where I knew no one. I have gone to dozens of shows alone and never experienced harassment. This incident ruined what was otherwise an incredible show.
I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here. Stick up for women? Rein in your friends, guys? Rein in yourselves, guys? I don’t know the answer. I do know that that guy put me in a position in which I questioned my safety. That he didn’t respect me. That he made me really uncomfortable. I’m just a person doing my best. I treat people respectfully and expect them to do the same. I always try to keep things positive and look on the bright side. But there is no bright side to being harassed. So, knock it off with the harassment, respect people, and keep listening to Reggae music. ✊
Thanks to Omayra Lopez for her photos.