More than music for Wailers' faithful on Thursday

For at least one night, Ashland's music scene reminded Louise Engorn of the diverse experience she used to enjoy in San Francisco.

Engorn, who moved to Ashland four years ago, didn't expect to find the diverse music and cultural scene she enjoyed in the Bay Area. But Thursday night as she stood outside the Historic Ashland Armory and looked around at the diverse reggae crowd who showed up for The Wailers, she said she has been pleasantly surprised.

"I like the wide range of ages here," she said. "You get the whole gamut. You see the older people who have been listening to reggae music for a long time and then you've got the young kids running around. I'm pretty sure I saw a 2-year-old earlier."

Engorn is one of many reggae fans who come regularly to the Armory to take part in a unique social experience.

Chi Scherer is an organic farmer from Williams who frequently visits Ashland to hear reggae music, he said.

"We're farmers, so for us it's a chance to come to town and connect with the root culture in this local Southern Oregon area," he said.

Scherer said that reggae culture is closely aligned with his beliefs as an organic farmer learning to live in a sustainable way. Coming to The Wailers, who started as the band to Bob Marley, is not only an important occasion for Scherer socially, but it is also something that is important culturally, he said.

"This is a culturally significant event considering Bob Marley is considered the king of reggae music around the world and reggae music is the roots of this kind of culture," he said. "People all around the planet relate, from ancient people all the way to modern people."

Sherer's wife, Michele, comes because she loves to dance.

"We come to reggae usually because it is not as commercial as other music, " she said.

Koalani Lagareta and Kaikua are visiting from Hawaii and were glad to find an event to attend that had the island vibe that reminds them of home.

"It's random to me to find something like this here," Lagareta said.

She likes reggae music because of the conscious, uplifting message that people get when they go to shows.

"It's a way to get a positive political message out to the youth. It's danceable, it has a beat and the youth can relate. Reggae music spreads awareness."

The crowd enjoyed Bob Marley classics such as "Stir It Up," "No Woman No Cry," "Redemption Song" and many others, each person dancing and relating to the music in a different way.

"It brings a positive message that each person can relate to," said Elan, the front man who has played the part of Bob Marley for the group on and off for 12 years. "It brings all the positive things in life, every person can understand this music. It helps you with whatever you're going through."

The name Wailers first referred to musical groups led by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston during the mid-1960s. Later these legends were joined by the Barrett brothers and together they created, and dominated, the reggae scene.

Aston "Familyman" Barrett and his brother Carlton, who died in 1987, were officially given the group after Tosh and Livingston left the group in 1973. Bob Marley and The Wailers soon after became a global reggae sensation, selling more than 250 million records. "Familyman" continues to lead the group with the help of old-time reggae stars including trombone player Vin Gordon, saxophonist Glen DaCosta and organist Earl "Wya" Lindo. All played alongside Marley and "Familyman" during the classic live reggae shows of the '70s.

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