Northern Va. reggae group sends peaceful vibes through RU’s Bondurant Auditorium

SOJA performs in Preston Auditorium. Courtney Earll | The Tartan.

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SOJA performs in Preston Auditorium. Courtney Earll | The Tartan.

Natalie Del Castillo

Feel-good words, positive vibes and sweet tunes filled Preston Hall this past Wednesday night. RSPaCE hosted its first spring concert with The Movement as the opening act for Arlington Va. headliners, SOJA. Students, anxiously holding their tickets, made multiple lines outside Preston Hall to go through security into the Bondurant Auditorium to grab a seat or standing spot. Many sported SOJA merchandise like hats, shirts and wristbands. There were a few people sporting The Movement gear sprinkled throughout the crowd. The crowd conversed loudly and wiggled around eagerly for the 8 p.m. show time to come around.

The Movement is a rock infused reggae band originally from Columbia, South Carolina that came together in 2004. The group was originally a trio and succeeded in putting out a successful first album, On Your Feet. After some changes to the band’s member line up and joining forces with a new producer in Philadelphia, The Movement was ready to make their second studio album. Set Sail has given the band exactly what artists strive for; more exposure and a bigger following. Josh Swain and Jordan Miller, the two founding members, bring diversity to their reggae music through their interests in different artists such as OutKast, The Pixies, Norah Jones, etc.

This Philadelphia band kicked off the performance with enthusiasm, preparing the crowd for the main attraction. Many of the concert goers swayed to The Movement’s catchy songs. Their music is definitely something to groove to. Lead singer Jordan Miller wore a SOJA tank top in support of his fellow rasta musicians. When the band played songs from their album Set Sail, it was obvious that it was more of a mature sound than their tracks featured on On Your Feet. The Movement announced to the crowd that their new album would release on March 20th. The group closed their set with having the audience start a chant for SOJA. After the crowd got crazy and gave them another round of applause, Miller exited the stage saying, “We are the movement.”

SOJA has a longtime history between its band members. Front man vocalist/guitarist Jacob Hemphill and bassist Bobby Lee met in the first grade. The pair would meet the remainder of the band in middle and high school. Only three years after forming SOJA, they released their first album, a self-titled EP, Soldiers of Jah Army. Their first full-length album would come two years later, and the second album would come four years later after replacing a band member in 2003.

Hemphill has stated in multiple interviews that SOJA’s musical goal is to address the issues that traditional reggae addresses, which is world issues. In regards to his new album, Hemphill stated on a video posted on the band’s YouTube site, “This is more about the environment that we all live in. The poor people, the rich people, everybody lives on the same earth.   The concept of the album is that if we could get rid of these imaginary borders that we have, these imaginary competitions that we have, over all these dollar bills which are also by the way imaginary that we would stand a chance of saving the earth that we live in but until we do that, come together as one, we have no chance to survive.”

Those imaginary borders were brought down that night in Preston Hall. Opening with their first track off of their new album Strength to Survive, “Mentality” entranced the crowd to prepare them for a night of straight jamming. SOJA performed an 18-track set, two of those songs being a part of their encore. The energy they put into playing signature songs like “You Don’t Know Me,” “Rest of My Life” and “You and Me,” was contagious. Everyone in the auditorium was moving.

Throughout the show, Hemphill wrote a modest grin on his face. It was obvious that these were just a group of good friends who loved playing together. Hemphill shared a few words with the crowd between songs.
“Radford, thank you very much,” said Hemphill. “You know in the history of SOJA, we’ve never been here.” He said with a laugh, “My sister went to Radford!” And of course, that drove RU crazy and everyone cheered.

After sixteen songs, the band exited the stage as if they were done, even waving goodbye to the fans. Everyone in Preston began to chant, “encore, encore, encore,” and the band came out to play two more songs, one from Strength to Survive and the other from their 2006 album, Get Wiser.
The Movement and SOJA set the bar high for the next spring concert performer, Mac Miller. Their optimistic attitudes and grooving music had everyone leaving Preston Hall in higher spirits.