I ducked into Cactus Jack’s late Saturday night a little bit wet from the ongoing downpour. With the rain it wasn't really the type of night I like to go out on but I wanted to catch Strange Rootz performing for the first time. A few days before front man Derek Moore had gotten in touch with trying to find out how to make sure all of his band's dates made it to the Small Venue Live schedule. It’s always humbling to me when a band reaches out and I wanted to return the favor as soon as I could.
When I walked into the restaurant I went straight up to the bar and sat down. The male bartender, who was one of three on duty came up to me immediately and asked me what I was drinking. A few seconds later I had my normal cocktail in front of me and the bartender introduced himself as Caesar. We talked for a few seconds before another of the trio of bartenders introduced herself as Megan. While the band played in the background Megan asked me questions about my day at work and I learned the rain had cleared everyone out. After a few minutes our conversation trailed off and I turned my attention to the band.
The first song that I heard them play start to finish was I Shot the Sheriff. Within the first few seconds of listening I knew that Strange Rootz was one of Virginia Beach's best kept secrets. Frontman Derek Moore's vocals were amazing. His confident relaxed tone seemed a perfect fit for the song. The band’s arrangement with the saxophone made the song come of a little bit jazzier than the original and I found myself wondering if I would have chosen their version over the Bob and the Wailers performances in the 70's.
After a few mellow reggae songs I didn’t recognize they picked up the pace with a Jimi Hendrix cover. At first I wondered if I was going to continue to hear a Caribbean slant in Derek’s voice and a reggae lean in the band’s arrangement but when the saxophone kicked in I knew what I was in for and I knew I liked it. Everyone knows Jimi was a guitar man but after a few dueling solos, sax then guitar then back again, I felt All Along the Watchtower could just as easily been written by a saxophone player.
I decided on a second drink when Megan asked and almost wished that the music would stop, but only so I could meet Derek and his band. Earlier I said that Strange Rootz is one of Virginia Beach's best kept secrets but every secret is a bad one when it comes to live music. Strange Rootz needs to be known. They need exposure and you need to get out to see them. Its a shame when the weather stops people from being able to see a live performance. The magic of a live performance can never be recaptured. Once its gone its gone and my only consolation is that this band has more dates coming and I know I'll get to see them again. Strange Rootz plays again tonight. They open up for Mike Love at Shaka’s and I know at least one person that will be in the audience. This guy!