Jaewar & Vibe Riot "Rise Up and Love More" 

Charlottesville is a city pulsating with love for music. Despite the sudden drop in temperature on November 10, a line led out from the Violet Crown Theatre into the Downtown Mall for a special showing of “Word is Bond,” a film exploring the “transformative power of lyrics in the world of hip-hop.” The soft hum of excited voices filled the open space, only momentarily interrupted by a small child playing her harmonica for a sibling as their family walked to their next destination.

A block away, in The Ante Room, Jaewar & Vibe Riot were preparing for their rescheduled performance, “Rise Up and Love More.” Although The Ante Room is a frequent stop for Vibe Riot, this night was special. The original show, scheduled for August 12, was postponed after Neo-Nazis and KKK members marched into Charlottesville to demonstrate. The violence that ensued caused three people to lose their lives that day. “Rise Up and Love More” was more than a concert. It was a response calling for unity that continues to echo throughout the healing city.

As fans began to fill the intimate venue, band members took turns going over the set list and making their way around the room to make everyone feel welcome. Vibe Riot’s connection and dedication to the community enhance the experience, but their talent speaks for itself.

In addition to the sultry sounds that invite listeners to dance and unwind, Jaewar, frontman and songwriter, does not avoid using his poetic aptitude to address current issues. He encouraged the participation of the audience in “Waddup” from his latest EP, “True! Raw Honey.” With their full attention, he called on the crowd to be aware of what is happening in the world, to recognize their responsibility to stay informed, and to stand up to those in support of hateful, racist rhetoric and violence. There is so much to consider in every word of this song, but especially the crucial line, “If it ain’t one love, it’s war.”

It was almost impossible to not be mesmerized by Xe Jah’Twi. Her voice alone was captivating, and her immersion into every song lit up the room with an energy that was contagious. “They said I brought a little heat today,” she laughed between numbers.

Ultimately, every person on stage brought a little heat of their own, which is exactly what the audience needed. Blues and jazz guitarist Jamal Millner joined Vibe Riot for this performance, and when he began to play there were gasps all around the room. With a six-string bass, Tim Burnett added his own funky rhythm to the sound. The result was a show that also unified diverse musical backgrounds, providing that infusion of jazz, reggae, hip hop, and blues-rock for which Jaewar & Vibe Riot are known.

By the end of the show, the packed venue was full of fans begging for just one more song. The musicians’ smiles lit up the stage with love and appreciation that will likely carry them through their upcoming weeks in the studio. Check out their website, www.viberiot.com, for updated information on new releases and future tour dates.

Photo Credit: Ludivine Leclercq