By Andrew Gilhooley / 411
East Salinas may seem an unlikely birthplace for a reggae band, but local 8-peice Dubwize is currently causing quite a stir in reggae circles. Reggae legends such as Israel Vibrations and Burning Spear specifically ask for Dubwize to be their opening act when they play in the Bay Area. With a musical style that blends traditional reggae with Latin beats, Dubwize regularly draws crowds of 300-plus and fans will travel from Monterey and Salinas all the way to San Francisco just to see a show. This Monday, Dubwize opens for Midnite at the Veterans Hall in Santa Cruz and once again organizers are expecting a capacity crowd.
The members of Dubwize have all been friends since school days, and it was a performance at Alisal High School by San Francisco reggae band Native Elements that inspired the formation of Dubwize. The band was formed in 1997 and quickly gained an enthusiastic and dedicated local following. One early gig was at a Salinas bowling alley. While the band was setting up, there were only a handful of people in the lounge. Less than an hour later, the word had spread by cell phone, and the doorman was holding back a line of people waiting to get in to the already packed venue.
Dubwize is now a regular fixture at several Bay Area clubs, opening for big-name reggae acts as well as playing their own shows. According to fan-turned-promoter Glen Chase, the members of Dubwize have their sights set on going all the way to the top. There’s an interesting twist, however. Said Chase, “Once the band has made it big, what we want to do then is bring it all back here, to Salinas. To show the kids here that it is possible to make it, to do something worthwhile, not just violence.” The music of Dubwize contains a similarly positive message. Lead vocalist and bassist Jose Ramon “Mony” Lujan said of Dubwize’s songs, “I try to get that message out there are other resorts to go to than gangs and other stuff like that.”
Chase waxes eloquent about the loose, friendly atmosphere of Dubwize shows and the love and camaraderie shown by fans, as well as their dedication to the band and its music. The dedication isn’t all one way either. When a venue books Dubwize, the band always negotiates the lowest possible ticket price for the fans, especially if the show is a long drive from Salinas. Fans are always kept up to date on the latest shows, too. The band maintains an e-mail list of almost 2,000 fans and reggae organizations, and also has almost 500 fans that do not have email on a phone list. Volunteers each call 25 people in their local area prior to a show to let them know what is happening. The band is proud to have such co-operation and good relations among what it calls the “Dubwize family.” With such a positive attitude from both the band and its fans, this family looks set to grow and grow.
First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, September 25, 2003
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