Concert Review – Protoje: The Get Together in Miami

Thought I would do a quick write up of the Protoje concert my wife and I went to last weekend.  I originally heard about the concert in late September when it was posted on Protoje’s Facebook page.  We were thinking of planning a weekend trip sometime in October, and I didn’t see any good reason why it shouldn’t be in Miami 🙂  So we did the requisite planning for flights, hotel, etc. and we were good to go.

Now, this concert was promoted from the beginning as “The Get Together” but the only billing besides Protoje and his band The Indiggnation, were the host DJ’s.  However, about two or three weeks before the show, the billing was CHANGED to Protoje and The Indiggnation, PLUS Special Guests.  Hmmmm.  What could this mean?  It’s not uncommon for reggae artists to show up at each other’s shows as surprise guests, and there was in fact very relevant precedence for this set earlier this summer.  At a Chronixx show in London at the Electric Brixton, Protoje showed up as an unannounced guest while Chronixx was singing their hit single “Who Knows”. Much like the name of the venue, the scene was literally electric when Protoje jumped on stage:

Having seen this video during the summer, my mind started computing the probabilities of such a scene unfolding in Miami.  I scoured Chronixx’s website for tour dates, and found nothing that would indicate he would be anywhere near Miami.  Not wanting to psyche myself out, I became pragmatic and told myself that it would surely just be some local Miami artists that would be the guests.  I started searching for any local reggae concerts taking place in Miami around that time and discovered something very interesting.  The annual “Welcome to Jamrock” boat cruise hosted by Damian Marley was set to end in Miami the day BEFORE the Protoje concert.  Now my head was really spinning.  The list of artists on the cruise was mind boggling:

Damian Marley
Stephen Marley
Julian Marley
Tarrus Riley
Jah Cure
Sean Paul
Busy Signal
Morgan Heritage
Wayne Marshall
Christopher Ellis
Black Am I
Jo Mersa
Bounty Killer
Wailing Souls

Sound Systems
David Rodigan
Stone Love
Mighty Crown

Most of the names mentioned above could be the headliners for their own show.  But, would any of them appear as a special guest for Protoje?  David Rodigan hosted the Chronixx show in the UK which Protoje showed up at, so he seemed a likely candidate.  I was of course hoping beyond hope for a combo of Damian and Stephen Marley as well, since the show itself was being promoted by the House of Marley.  As my wild speculation continued, the buzz became almost too much to bear as I was blowing my own mind with anticipation 🙂

Closer to the date of the show, Protoje began dropping less subtle hints on his Facebook page such as: “Who knows what will happen in Florida this week?” which was clearly a reference to his new single with Chronixx.  Finally, the day before the show, the billing was updated for what seemed like a final time, and indicated that Ky-Mani Marley would be the special guest.  Ky-Mani Marley is featured on a great Protoje song called “Rasta Love”:

However, after insinuating that Chronixx would be the special guest, it was confusing to say the least.  Anyhow with the mystery seemingly resolved, it was finally time to get ready for the concert.  We donned our Protoje T-Shirts that I ordered from his website, This is Protoje and went out to look for a cab.

All the reviews I read about the venue (The Stage) said it was a fantastic place for live music, and they were right.  The only problem was finding it, since it is in a seemingly industrial building located under a highway overpass.  The club is half indoors and half outdoors, with big garage doors in the rear that they can presumably close if the weather is not co-operating.  The stage itself is small and only a few feet high, and patrons can get right up close and be literally an arms length away from the band.  I was pumped.

We got there just in time to order a couple of Red Stripes and hear the announcement for the opening act.  The band was called Mixed Culture, and they played a set of heavy roots reggae.  I don’t remember the names of their songs, but a couple were kinda catchy, so I will have to spend some time looking them up.  Once the opening act wrapped up, the members of Protoje’s band started setting up on stage.  While I’m sure it was only minutes, the level of anticipation made it feel like hours watching them warm up.  Finally, the MC took the mic and started hyping up the crowd before introducing Protoje.  He clearly needed no introduction, since the crowd erupted as soon as Protoje leapt on to the stage and the band came to life.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think he opened with “Dread” (the track title is featured prominently on the T-Shirt I happened to be wearing).

EDIT: I made a mistake, he did not open with this track, he opened with “I & I”, which also happens to have a great video with lots of cameos:

Then after doing a couple more songs, he brought on his first guest vocalist, Toian.  Toian is featured on a track off Protoje’s sophomore album “The 8 Year Affair” called “Shot By Love”.  This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and it was nice a surprise to see her there.  This song really does deserve it’s own blog post, so if you haven’t heard it before, give it a listen.  The first time I heard this song, I was drawn to it for a reason I couldn’t really explain.  After a while, it dawned on me that the offbeat (the signature of reggae music) was being played on a piano rather than a guitar.  It’s a very subtle thing that changes the complexion of the whole track:

After another song or two, Protoje declared to the crowd that he would not be using any samples for this show.  And with that, popped up the next special guest, an artist by the name of “Da Professor”.  He started out doing his high pitched chant from the track “Rub-A-Dub Soldier”:

Da Professor posted a short clip of his performance on Instagram:

So, we had just seen two unannounced guests, and the true meaning of the “The Get Together” was starting to take shape.  Again, working the crowd masterfully, Protoje warned us that we were going to go from “0 to 100, real quick!”.  And with that, next up was Ky-Mani Marley, who was the only special guest that people were actually expecting to see.  The fact he was scheduled to appear didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm as they roared in approval when he took the stage.  They performed a great version of “Rasta Love” (posted a link to it a little earlier in this article), and after the song, Ky-Mani was effusive in his praise of Protoje and his music.

At this point, the crowd was really jamming, and Protoje busted out a little bad man style and paid tribute to Buju Banton.  I took a short video clip of him “walking like a champion”, and I have to admit that I had the gun finger out for this one 🙂  Apologies for the audio quality, but it was EXTREMELY loud and there is unfortunately tons of distortion.

At some point after this, he played an extended version of “Hail Ras Tafari” which is something I was really looking forward to (see my previous post about this track).  This is a track where his band, The Indiggnation really get a chance to shine.  Not many solo reggae artists travel with their bands, but Protoje and Chronixx (with his band called the Zincfence Redemption) are two notable exceptions.  I can’t emphasize enough how much a difference this makes to the live performance experience, especially when in this day and age, the vast majority of our musical consumption is via heavily produced digital recordings.  I have been to many reggae concerts where artists are playing with a local house band backing them, and while entertaining, you can tell they don’t have the same synergy as the artists who tour with their own band.  The Indiggation is an incredibly talented group of musicians, and while Protoje is certainly the star of the show, they are a huge part of his success.  Even though this was the song I was looking forward to most, and I would have loved to have a video recording of this rendition, I was too caught up in the music to do anything except soak in the experience.  Besides the fact that I was dancing up a storm, I was standing less than 6 feet away from the stage, and it didn’t seem to make any sense to experience this moment through a 5 inch LCD screen.  There was a contingent of photographers/vidoegraphers at the venue, so I’m hoping footage of this whole concert is made available one day, but even if it isn’t, I have no regrets.

The concert could have ended at this point, and I would have already felt that I got more than my money’s worth.  As luck would have it, it was no where near over.  The next surprise guest was Kabaka Pyramid, who is another prominent artist that is part of this movement known as the Reggae Revival.  At this point, the crowd was in a frenzy when Kabaka broke into one of his tracks (which features Protoje, rather than the other way around) called “Warrior”:

Protoje now had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He had put on a fabulous show, exceeded audience expectations with multiple surprise guests, but he still had an ace up his sleeve.  The band started playing the intro to “Who Knows”, and Protoje began with his vocals.  Then someone that WASN’T on the stage started singing the chorus.  I immediately recognized the voice as Chronixx, and proceeded to lose my mind.  Judging from the reaction of the crowd, they hadn’t quite caught on to what was happening yet though.  Once Chronixx sauntered on to the stage, pandemonium ensued.  The band pulled up, rewound, and started again.

EDIT: I just recently found a good quality video of Kabaka’s performance, and Chronixx’s entrance, check out the crowd reaction around the 7 minute mark:

It was almost like we were in that scene at the end of the video for “Who Knows” when Protoje and Chronixx are having that beach party.  Maybe it was because they were together and you could tell how much fun they were having.  Maybe it was because we were jamming a few feet from the stage with a massive sound system.  Maybe it was because the aroma of marijuana smoke was wafting through the air like incense.  Maybe it was because it was in Miami and the weather was tropical.  Whatever it was, it was an absolutely surreal moment.

For the encore, he came out and did “Kingston Be Wise”.  But as he did throughout the whole concert, he was able to amp up the crowd to another level, this time by asking us if we wanted to hear new lyrics for the song.  I would be lying if I said I remembered what they were, but it was clear the audience was being treated to something special here.

As the concert concluded, Protoje thanked his special guests, some of whom flew in specifically for this show.  He said he felt blessed that they were there to share this time and space with him, and I have to say that I felt the exact same way being in presence of such a humble and engaging artist.  The so called Reggae Revival happening in Jamaica right now is not simply about reggae music growing in popularity.  It is a soulful, spiritual movement that espouses the values of peace, love and unity.  And it could not hope to have better ambassadors than these young men.

After the concert, we hung around for a bit and got a chicken patty from the food truck out back.  They announced that there was going to be an afterparty at a club called Jazid.  We decided we would head back to the hotel for a bit and then walk over to the club.  While waiting for a cab outside, Protoje walked right by us and was hanging out with some people outside the club.  Sonya decided to stalk him so we could get a picture with him.  It’s not really in my nature to do stuff like that, as I don’t really like to bother people.  However, I think she knew how much it would mean to me, and so she approached him and asked if we could get a picture.  She told him we came from Toronto to see his show, and he seemed genuinely excited as he replied, “Oh shit! Come, come!” and motioned for us to come stand next to him.  I was as giddy as a school girl by now, and handed my phone to the first person I saw and asked them to take a picture of us.  As we were leaving, he held out his hand.  At first, I didn’t know what to make of it.  It wasn’t a handshake, and it wasn’t a high five.  Then I realized, he was giving me the lion’s paw.  I took his hand, and said thank you, to which he replied, “Jah Bless”.  I was completely speechless for the next few minutes.  You could say I was star struck, but I don’t think that is the right word.  I simply felt alive.


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