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Attendance looked pretty good, and the predominantly young and up-for-it crowd at the Hippo (plus a few more ‘experienced’ reggae fans!) were clearly there to dance and have a good time. Support band Backbeat SoundSystem were given a warm reception, and quite deservedly so. This is a young band from St Austell with two frontmen and a tendency to churn out an upbeat reggae sound with pounding basslines and danceable tunes aplenty.

Headliners, Pama International rocked the show with a new line-up that’s stronger than ever – and the band’s songwriter and keyboard player, Sean agrees with this. Sean and singer, Finny are Pama International’s fixed members, and the band currently features Andi McLean (Frankie Paul and U-Roy’s bassist), Dredy on drums (previously played with Gregory Isaacs, African Headcharge and 808 State) and dub doctor/desk-operator, Sir Marcos Ferrari (Easy Star All-stars and The Specials’ engineer) Finny has an incredible voice, with plenty of soul power. Add this to Sean’s piercing old-school reggae organ, throbbing basslines, skanking guitars and tight drums, and you have the Pama International live sound.

The dub engineer is a genius, and knows his stuff. This is no surprise: he’s engineered for The Specials! The master at the art of applying dub effects, Sir Marcos sent guitars, drums and vocals echoing all around the room at precisely the right time, and without going into overkill. We were treated to songs from the band’s new album Outernational, such as Equality and Justice For All, as well as corkers from their back catalogue, including the soul-fused Wherever You Lead, from their previous album, Love Filled Dub Band. They kept the dancefloor alive throughout their set, which included two songs for an encore. After the band, I kept the crowd going for an hour or so more with a DJ set, dropping ‘60s Trojan Ska, roots and dancehall. To sum up: great venue, brilliant sound, lovely crowd, fantastic bands and a very grateful DJ.

Words: Arash Torabi
Photo: Angie Knight