Bumbershoot 2017, Day One: Kore Ionz

Bumbershoot, Local Music, Live Reviews
Gabe Pollak
all photos by Morgen Schuler (view set)

Thirty minutes. That's all the time Seattle reggae champs Kore Ionz had to win over a crowd at the Mural Amphitheatre on the first afternoon of the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. Frontman Daniel Pak, shirtless in the hot sun with a red, green, and yellow strap running across his chest (that'll be an interesting sunburn), wasted no time creating a good vibe. Pak built rapport with the crowd during an extended soundcheck caused by a fussy mic cable, chatting with people in the pit, throwing shakas to those further back, and eventually calling out, "Are you ready to have fun, Seattle?" The crowd -- laying in the grass, lounging in the beer garden, and hiding under the trees -- cheered back happily. While Pak's early efforts to reach out to festgoers may seem insignificant, they spoke to the band's larger mission. "More than anything, I feel like my job is to connect with people," said Pak in an interview later that afternoon. "Once you got the chemistry... the music comes naturally."

It doesn't hurt that Kore Ionz knows how to deliver. Once the levels were set, the faulty cable replaced, and the pre-show banter through, the band dug into some serious grooves. Listening to the nine-piece play, it was easy to hear why they've earned spots playing alongside reggae royalty like The Wailers and Toots and the Maytals. The band sounded incredibly tight but still kept the mood loose, playing precise rhythms at relaxed speeds. Oh yeah, and guest appearances from the Tiny Banana Disco dance crew -- yep, you read that right -- also helped. Wearing black tights and tropically patterned red scarves, the four-person troupe came onstage for a few songs, showing the crowd how to get down.

The set came to a head with closer "Sweet Reggae Music," a mournful, yet resilient ode to the power of the genre in helping people uplift themselves. Squinting in the sunlight, Pak, who runs a non-profit called Totem Star that mentors young artists, sang about the positive way reggae makes people feel -- can you ever really feel mad listening to reggae? -- and the role that positivity plays in helping people liberate themselves. All of the sudden, that carefree banter before the show, the shakas tossed to strangers lounging in the grass, and this short, but powerful half-hour-or-less burst of music all felt incredibly important. Music can help you free yourself, but first, you have to connect to it. Kore Ionz fights the good fight.

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