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Marcia Griffiths at Santa Monica Pier's Twilight Concerts 7/13/17. Photo by Christian Hill (@ChristianHillPhotos) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Marcia Griffiths at Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concerts 7/13/17. Photo by Christian Hill (@ChristianHillPhotos) for www.BlurredCulture.com.


Santa Monica, CA- On July 13, 2017, the “Queen of reggae” Marcia Griffiths took the Santa Monica Pier with some old time chimes that brought an equally vintage audience.

An anxious commotion from the crowd paired with a sort of informal yet simultaneously royal pageant on stage welcomed the Queen of reggae to her kingdom of the next hour and a half. The whole audience seemed to rise a couple inches, each individual tip-toeing over each other vying to catch the first glimpses of that iconic voice that’s kept them rewinding their cassette tapes all these years. An unmistakably herbal aroma was accompanied by a symphonic display of scattered marijuana puffs seemingly orchestrated to the tempo of the beat. All eyes were fixed on Marcia Griffiths… well, as best as they could manage.

If Bob Marley were the genre’s Michael Jackson, Griffiths’ fame would easily match that of Madonna. A brilliant spotlight shone down on her already glowing appearance. Cheers muted the instruments as they intro’d their first song. The entire set was a feel-good medley humbly expressed with a hoppy base, some tight percussion, and a fluid harmony of backup vocals that complemented Griffiths’ warm voice.

During the final segment of the concert, Griffiths called for the audience to send five—which somehow became ten—ladies to join her on stage and move to the grooving riddims of the wedding-classic “Electric Boogie”; however, this invite came with one playfully serious caveat: don’t even think about sharing the limelight if you don’t have the choreographed dance absolutely perfected. Fortunately, the handful of tributes mounted the platform and performed a spectacular act as though practiced a thousand times over, which, come to think of it, they probably had.

The most striking takeaway was the personal and platonically intimate relationship every individual at that concert seemed to feel they had with Marcia Griffiths. Photographs of Griffiths pointing at me actually show her aiming for my neighbor whose heart froze as he exclaimed “She’s…  She’s pointing at… at me!” As the concert closed, a not-very-tall yet memorable figure with a slightly oversized, thrift shop blazer and thin yet neatly combed hair pressed his body against the barrier waving a handwritten note bearing the singer’s name, his face a mixed expression of childlike hopefulness and desperation. Both of these men had to be nearing sixty and seventy years old, and I wrestled to understand their devotion. Perhaps the answer I seek comes from my conversation with the bassist’s sister: “reggae is about the love.” Maybe, throughout the ups and downs of life, these listeners found their refuge in the soothing sounds and palliative lyrics of Marcia Griffiths.”

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