Riverfest Elora



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KOOP TENT • SATURDAY, AUGUST 19 • 8:25PM

The year is 2002. Vocalist Jesse Wagner and organist Roger Rivas, each fresh out of their own bands, come together to form dirty reggae quintet the Aggrolites. With a sound that is equal parts Kingston and Motown, the band turns the heads of discerning music listeners everywhere, not to mention a slew of legends both old-school (Phyllis Dillon, Derrick Morgan) and newer (Tim Armstrong) who recruit them for collaborations. Over the next decade, the Los Angeles band tours hard and records constantly, releasing five full-lengths while spending close to 250 days a year on the road. For a time, it seemed like the Aggrolites were everywhere, and that’s because they truly were. (Their van’s odometer can prove it.)

Then, unexpectedly: Silence. The Aggrolites enter a prolonged hibernation following a particularly grueling tour for 2011’s Rugged Road, and suddenly, the scene was without its leading purveyors of dirty reggae.

“I guess it just comes down to getting burned out,” frontman Wagner recalls. “We lost motivation to record. We got to that point where we had to take care of our own personal lives. Everybody just needed time for themselves.”

Of course, you can’t keep a good band down. Even though the Aggrolites were technically on hiatus, it didn’t stop them from playing a handful of gigs each year, nor did it stop members from exploring other creative endeavors. (Rivas started his own recording studio and multiple new bands; Wagner began playing with Vic Ruggiero from the Slackers; bassist Jeff Roffredo formed a band called Wild Roses with former Dropkick Murphys guitarist Marc Orrell.) And with fan support still unwavering, the band reconvened in late 2015 to lay down three songs, “Aggro Reggae Party,” “Help Man” and “Western Taipan,” which reminded them that, hey, they’re still pretty damn good at this.

“I think we were so preoccupied with our lives at that time that we were just doing things out of force to keep the band alive,” Wagner says. “But luckily and thankfully we did, because we never gave up.”