Anchorage band blends hip hop and reggae

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

The high-energy dance music of hip hop reggae flies into Juneau this weekend with the group First Trax from Anchorage.

"We're a big ska band with a horn section," said John Earle, the drummer and band leader for First Trax. "We'll start off with some hip hop reggae stuff and we'll throw some modern rock in -- it's all for the dancers."

First Trax plays from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Hangar on the Wharf. There will be a $3 cover.

Hip hop reggae is a new genre of dance music coming out of Southern California, a blend of the two namesake styles. Earle said First Trax' music is in the vein of the group Sublime and Sublime's new incarnation, The Long Beach Double All Stars.

"We do a lot of originals, and a lot of our covers are tweaked -- our own versions," Earle said. "We do a Beatles tune that's a hip hop reggae version of "Taxman," and a rock steady version of "Margaritaville." Everything from Jane's Addiction, Bob Marley, Rootboy, Smashmouth -- we've written and arranged horn parts."

The band sports a three-piece horn section and a second percussionist as well as guitar, bass and drums.

Earle has been a drummer in Anchorage since the mid-1970s, and played for many years with the band KGB. He said First Trax has been active on the Anchorage club scene for the past three years, and plays virtually every weekend.

"We try to book one weekend out of town," he said.

The group has released two live CDs out. They have a new CD recorded and plan to release it this fall.

The band's trumpet player was recently awarded a full music scholarship to a California university and may not be able to return to Alaska for the gig. If not, Juneau trumpeter John Hanson will sit in, Earle said.

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