Blazing sets at 'Grass Roots'
Matthew Gillespie of 8

THE Reggae Month/Valentine edition of Grass Roots and Blankets — which took place on Sunday evening at University Crescent in Mona, St Andrew — was another entertaining affair.

Hosted by members of the band 8, the occasion saw performances from newcomers Justice the Artiste, Shan Lucien, and Bryan Royes.

Justice the Artiste kicked off the evening, exciting those in attendance with songs including Colour Wheel, Sugar and Spice, Spectacular, and Tour Di Wurld.

"I went to school [Jamaica College] with the members of 8, so I had to do it for old times' sake," Justice the Artiste told the Jamaica Observer.

"The energy and the vibe was great. I'm a person who gets very nervous so when I got on stage and saw the people reacting I was like, 'Wow. I don't need to be nervous,' " he continued.

Aside from singing, Justice the Artiste is also a musician. He plays the bass guitar, sax, and drums.

"I feel like music is a lifestyle for me; it's ingrained in me. I think I bring an interesting new sound to Jamaica," said the artiste who currently has four musical projects released.

Vocalist and pianist Shan Lucien — who attends the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts where she is pursuing a bachelor's in music education — was the sole female on the line-up.

"I did a stripped-down performance and people were grooving, so I liked it. Any chance that I get to perform, I take it," said Lucien.

Her set included a cover of Adele's Promise This, Etana's People Talk and Tessanne Chin's Hideaway.

With his intention to kick-start his music career this year, singer Bryan Royes said he couldn't resist taking advantage of the opportunity to perform at the event.

Royes, a former Hillel Academy alum who performed in various Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) competitions, represented Jamaica at the World Championships in Hollywood.

Classically trained in voice, Royes studied psychology at Amhurst College in Massachusetts.

"It was an electric vibe and it was really good. I'm just grateful that 8 invited me. Just being up there and vibing with the audience, it's such an intimate setting and it felt really good to get the energy reciprocated," said Royes.

He added, "I'm just blessed to be a part of this new generation of artistes who are using their platform to bring people together in music."

Royes' interpretation of OMI's Cheerleader, Skip Marley's Slow Down, Lightning by Mortimer, Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come and Michael Jackson's Human Nature, as well as his original effort Tallawah Nation, were well-received.

Members of the band 8 closed the evening's proceedings with a stirring performance laced with reggae songs and numbers that tackle matters of the heart.

Band leader Jhada Dwyer explained the group's decision to pay tribute to Reggae Month and Valentine's Day.

"We had to pay tribute to the legends that really set the foundation for us. Bob Marley and Dennis Brown's birthdays fall in February, so too Valentine's Day. We had to find a way to intertwine those themes into one show," said Dwyer.

Bass guitarist Adrian Bacchus said every performance by the band exceeds that of the previous.

"We really take the time to ensure that every performance is better than the one before. We ensure that it's [at] the standard that we want," said Bacchus.

Said lead vocalist Matthew Gillespie: "Every single time that we keep this event we are amazed by how we vibe with the patrons. It's a good family event, and that's one of the things that we enjoy about this event and we are happy to have hosted it."

According to band member Moses Estick, interaction is key.

"Interaction is very important and we try to make that the helm of the show. At some point throughout the show we want the audience to feel a part of the experience," said Estick.

Among the list of songs that kept patrons grooving were Too Experienced, Push Come to Shove, Just Don't Wanna Be Lonely, That Girl, She's Still Loving Me, Love Doctor, Affairs of the Heart, and the band's latest single Hennessey.

Bryan Royes
Adrian Bacchus of 8 performs at the Reggae Month/Valentine edition of Grass Roots and Blankets held in Mona, St Andrew, on Sunday. (Photos: Kevin Jackson)
Dimetri Wynter of the band 8
Drummer George Campbell of 8
Guests at Grass Roots and Blankets flashing bright smiles.
Sharing lens time
Pausing for the camera.
Capturing the moment
Jhada Dwyer of 8
Justice the Artiste
Children enjoying the evening's performances.
Keyboard player Moses Estick of 8
Shan Lucien
Kevin Jackson

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