That reggae band that’s been playing at the Blue Dog Pub in Towamencin since October is called Fulljoy.
The name, says guitarist Mark Cosgrove, is a nod to Jamaican patois. “When the Jamaicans say ‘enjoy,’ it sounds like ‘end joy,’ and they don’t want to end joy,” he said.
Cosgrove should know: two of Fulljoy’s primary members — singer and keyboardist Horace “Bassy” Allen and drummer Neville Thomas — come from the musical island.
Something that throws new fans off, Cosgrove said, is that Thomas is blind. “It’s amazing what he can do without sight. It’s funny when people come up to him to shake his hand [and he can’t see them extending their hand],” he said.
Bassist Urijah James hails from the Caribbean island of Antigua and Fulljoy’s other drummer, Mike Shaffer, is a Blue Dog server.
In March the band alternated Saturday nights between the Blue Dog Pub in the Allen Forge Shopping Center at Valley Forge and Allentown roads, and the Blue Dog Family Tavern at County Line Road and Route 202, New Britain.
“It’s something different for Lansdale, but people enjoy it ... or full joy it,” laughed Cosgrove, a West Philadelphia resident.
“Those guys have a great sound,” said Blue Dog general manager Rob Hyde.
Fulljoy’s set blends classic reggae with original songs, and they play it dub reggae style.
“Dub really started out as a [recording] studio thing. The emphasis is on the drums and bass,” he said. The listener is led to pay attention to the different instruments as they drop out of the mix until there is only bass and drums. Then the dropped-out instruments return with effects or variations of some sort.
“The first rap DJs in New York were Jamaican. It was the original remix,” noted Cosgrove, who sometimes mistakenly gets phone calls for a Bucks County flatpicking guitarist who is also named Mark Cosgrove.
Along with 10 other bands, Fulljoy just played at Wall Street International, 1431-39 N. 52nd St., Philadelphia, April 20; now you’ll have to wait till at least May to catch the band around these parts again.
There’s also a “Fulljoy band” Facebook page to stay in touch.
Just because Fulljoy won’t be at the Blue Dog Pub (Towamencin) for a while doesn’t mean the live music there stops. At 9 p.m. Saturdays, there’s been a series of solo acoustic sounds — Mike Meade played April 13, C.J. Gravity played April 20 and Dan Ward will play April 27.
“It’s kind of like when you go down the shore and there’s a guy playing [solo acoustic in a bar],” Hyde said, elaborating that the singers will perform “a cross between modern rock, classic rock and something fun, like shore music.”
Hyde indicated that he’d like to experiment with rotating different reggae bands — all of which are likely to be friends of Shaffer’s — at the Blue Dog because, he explained, different bands mean different set lists and variations on the reggae sound.
An area band known for going down the reggae path, The Mighty Manatees, played the Blue Dog Family Tavern (New Britain) April 13 — with Shaffer sitting in on drums, no less.
Mighty Manatees cofounder, singer and guitarist Will Hodgson said that they refer to Shaffer as “Ras Michael,” after a Jamaican singer who goes by that name.
According to Hodgson, the band leans on the reggae part of its repertoire when it plays outdoors. But with Ras Michael playing with them this weekend, even though they’re indoors, “it’ll probably be a heavy reggae” show, he said, naming covers by Toots & The Maytals, Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Culture and Black Uhuru that they might play.
Online, at www.themightymanatees.com, the band lists shows it will be playing in the area, including, most recently, performances at Justin’s Carriage House April 12 and another at the Hotel Fiesole April 19, both in Skippack. The band also will be playing every other Thursday night at the Rising Sun Inn, 898 Allentown Road, Franconia Township.
ONCE it was the exclusive product of the sunshine island of Jamaica but now a special brand of made-in-Swindon reggae is proving a hit with discerning fans around the world.
Father-of-two Erin Bardwell – Swindon council worker by day, reggae musician by night –finds himself posting his band’s home grown music to all corners of the globe.
Former gravedigger Erin, 39, who lives in Central Swindon, said: “We get orders for our CDs and vinyl records from the USA, Switzerland, Belgium, France, New Zealand – all over.”
He has just posted a parcel of assorted goodies by the Erin Bardwell Collective – Swindon’s very own reggae/ska quintet – to Venezuela.
“I got a request to send some promo stuff to a radio station in South America, El Inspector, who specialise in reggae and ska,” he said.
“We also did an interview last year with a fanzine from Mexico. Our stuff’s being heard in quite a few places.”
The son of Swindon street-mime artistes Robert Stredder and Jackie Bardwell, Erin first heard reggae/ska via The Specials when he was around six.
His interest was further piqued a few years later when his dad bought him a cassette by reggae legends Toots & The Maytals.
The coming years saw Erin rooting around local stores searching out reggae in all of its forms by the likes of Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers and Augustus Pablo.
He said: “When I was about 13 my mum bought me a Casio keyboard. I had lessons from various people, including John Holmes Music in Swindon. I learned a few things from musicians I knew and also just played along to records.”
Erin’s obsession also took him to the home of reggae Jamaica where he further honed his skills.
He decided to join a band after being inspired by The Hoover Juniors, a Swindon reggae group of the Eighties. “I thought that if they could get up and do it then surely so could I. During the Nineties I was in various bands. When I launched my own reggae project in 2003 I called up some old Swindon musician pals and they helped me out.
“Initially we put an album together and then started gigging. It has been an ongoing concern ever since.”
The band is now celebrating its 10th anniversary as a recording unit. Tracks from the latest CD/LP Bringing The Hope have been aired on BBC 6 by Steve Lamacq.
The band – Pete Fitzsimmons (bass), Erin Bardwell (keyboards/vocals), Sandra Bell (vocals/percussion), Pete O'Driscoll (drums) and Eddie Frankis (guitar/vocals) – are also playing The Vic, Victoria Road, Swindon on Saturday, April 20.
Tickets are £5 in advance from Swindon Central Library and The Vic; or online or pay on the door.
Steel Pulse may have explored various styles of music since they started out in 1975, but when it comes to the message, the reggae band has remained close to their roots. The group have continued their commitment to fighting injustice, educating the masses and promoting positive messages through spiritually uplifting music. “We just can’t ignore the politics, because every life and soul that’s born on this earth is a political maneuver for someone, at some point," Hinds explains. “From a spiritual aspect, it’s really an upliftment through facing reality – what’s out there. We deal with positive spirits. It means putting aside the guns, the drugs and all of the things that are ailments of society – especially in the black communities right now.”