There is a reason why Hirie’s fans adore her so much. She is a compact package of high energy reggae love. Whether she is dancing center stage with her bass player, tooting her melodica or cheek kissing and holding hands with her fans at the edge of the stage, she returns the love, many,many times over.
That love was evident as early as 8 pm Friday night at the famous Roxy in Hollywood, CA., as the club floor was packed and the line stretched outside – unheard of early in Hollywood where the crowds don’t arrive until 10 pm. But everyone wanted to be as close as possible to Hirie and bask in the love, the spiritual uplift and the healing joy of her music.
The show at the Roxie is an early stop on a two month Western States tour in support of her new album Wandering Soul, recorded with funds from a Kickstarter and promoted with help from the Rootfire Collective in San Diego, her home town. The show at the Roxie included Iya Terra and Arise Roots who poured out smiles, energy and shout outs for the Water Defenders at Standing Rock. Arise Roots and Hirie worked together on Roots’ official video for “Cool Me Down Tonight”, which featured Hirie singing. The crowdwas hot, sweating and moving when the Arise Rootsfinished its high wattage set and the stage crew began setting up for the seven-member all-star band Patricia Jetton assembled and called Hirie, the name that has stuck with her.
Hirie had already raised expectations by surprising the audience during Arise Roots’ set, dancing out onto the stage in a turquoise blue backless mini dress that showed off her legs and her tattooed back. She rapped with the band, touched hands with fans and danced off. After the Roots’ set, the Hirie band – Chris Hampton onsaxophone, melodica, accordion; Andrew McKee ontrombone, guitar, didgeridoo and percussion; Andy Flores on bass, Blaine Dillinger on lead guitar ( who played world class riffs – behind his back at one point), Joey Muraoka ondrums – rocked an intro, setting the scene for Hirie’s entrance. She skipped out on stage to applause that drowned out the music until the band launched into Queen” and “You Won’t Be Alone”. Hirie’s feet went nonstop, Dillinger’s guitar lit up and the Roxie practically elevated.
And elevated it stayed for twelve songs from her albumsWandering Soul and Hirie,plussingles and dubs anda three-song encore. One of the highlights for me was “Woman Comes First” from Wandering Soul and introduced by Hirie as a song for women everywhere. It has special resonance, as Hirie is one of the few women leading a reggae band, joining her inspirations Tanya Stepens and Dezarie and following in the footsteps of pioneers like Sista Nancy, Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley.
She mixed it up; new songs and old favorites. “Wiseman” from the Hirie album followed by a Matisysahu medley, “Renegade” from Wandering Soul and “Lost and Found”, also from Hirie. All that set the scene for the highlight of the night for many fans, “Don’t Take My Ganja”.They were prepared; the sweet smell of ganja started early in the evening but when Hirie took center stage and announced the song, cheers and smoke went up together. Joints floated throughout the audience, up onto the stage and back. At one point, so much smoke had drifted onto the stage that the keyboard player vanished in the haze. Hirie powered through, regaling fans, dancing, holding hands and slapping high fives through “Ganja”, “Sensi” and “Stoned in Love” before the stage lights blacked out and the band disappeared into the dark.
But the break was illusory; if Hirie is anything she is a show woman and a savvy entertainer. She knows how do build drama, raise excitement and make an entrance. The blacked-out stage began to vibrate in strobe lights and jungle drum beats as the band appeared, one by one, upping the tension and layering the music. Into this swirling mass of strobe light and drum pulse strolled Hirie, bathed in a blue spotlight, singing the title song from Wandering Soul. Las Vegas could not have done it better.
The band headed into the stretch with a dance take on “Boom Fire” from the Wandering Soul album and finished up with one of the most heartwarming and authentic thankyou’s to her fans I have ever seen. The love was as thick as the smoke as she left the stage. But of course, it was not over. As Hirie has said, one of her driving motivations – next to her husband and daughter – is being on the stage, and she came back onstage with a vengeance for the encores: “Good Vibrations” from Wandering Soul, “Smile” and “Come Alive” from Hirie. Another round of high fives, selfies, cheek kisses and hand touches and she was gone, but the music and the love still vibrated in the room.
Everything is falling into place for Hirie – an all-star band, an adorning fan base, an irrepressible style, world class songwriting and talentshowcased by an authentic stage presence that is pure entertainment. She is on her way to becoming not just a sold out, award-winning reggae star, but a legend. Catch the tour and watch the legend being born.