Toots & The Maytals

Austin City Limits Festival

September 17, 2004

Toots was a character. The band went onstage first, and Toots followed wearing a white leather jumpsuit and a bejeweled leather headband. It was obvious from the get-go he was an entertainer and a true front-man. He played to the crowd well. Toots paced the stage the whole set, and he implored the crowd to repeat his intricate vocalizations. Austin wasn’t playing around. They hit Toots back with the shouts exactly as he had given them. That was cool. Toots’ signature move was to place the microphone wire in a semicircle around his neck while he hunched over in exhaustion. Then, Toots dropped his fist in a powerful gesture to end the song.

The Maytals’ claim to fame is that they were supposedly the first band to use the word reggae in a song title with “Do The Reggay.” Like many other bands in Kingston, The Maytals started off by playing ska in the early ‘60’s. The Maytals had a “reputation for having strong, well-blended voices and a seldom rivaled passion for their music,” according to Allmusic.com. In 1968, the more aggressive and angrier music style of reggae overtook ska as the genre of popularity in Jamaica. The Maytals changed with the popularity, but they retained their soulful delivery. The Maytals broke up in 1981, but Toots started to tour with a different Maytals in the early ‘90’s.

New Maytals or old Maytals—the music was still great Friday night at The Austin City Limits Festival. The roots rock/reggae music was joyful, fun, and extremely danceable. I looked down at my feet at one point and noticed I had started doing a Reggae type dance/march just on my recognition of the music’s unique rhythm. I’m surprised The Maytals didn’t play more recognizable Reggae covers, but whatever they played was solid. Toots slowed things down mid-set when he brought a female guest vocalist onstage for a love duet. It was nice, but the reggae was nicer. Dance hard.

Toots preached a message of peace, love and tolerance between songs. The crowd ate it up. How could they not? Even if you hated black or gay people, I’m sure you would want to at least feel tolerant when the subject of its coolness was broached.

Toots and The Maytals put a smile on my face and made me dance. That’s all I wanted.


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