‘It’s enough of a rush to keep you going’ 

Local reggae-rockers Passafire get signed and tour North America

DESPITE WHAT SAD-SACK NAYSAYERS might have you believe over the past decade and a half, a handful of Savannah-based original rock groups have gone on to some degree of national or international fame.

Freak-rockers GAM toured the East Coast several times, attracting the attention of major record execs and producers, and even had one of their shows broadcast on Japanese TV. Perpetual Groove (though now based in Athens/Atlanta) regularly criss-crosses the country, playing to sizable crowds in theaters, large clubs and at festivals and on jam-themed cruises — not to mention one-upping GAM by actually playing a series of shows in the Land of The Midnight Sun.

Cult metal groups such as Kylesa, Baroness, Circle Takes The Square and Showbread have also earned substantial followings both here and abroad through seemingly relentless touring and shrewd word-of-mouth marketing. Now, it seems Savannah can legitimately add Passafire to its list of “local boys done good.”

In what might be termed the logical result of the band’s diligent, focused career arc, they have just inked a deal with the upstart LAW Records label, and —with the help of a new management firm— are set to embark on an 8-week tour of North America opening for kindred spirits Pepper. That excursion will find them playing large, big-time venues in both the U.S. and Canada, and places the road-ready group in front of thousands and thousands of potential new fans, most of whom will be predisposed to digging their hypnotic, uptempo hybrid of reggae and rock.

“Things have really picked up for us,” says Passafire keyboardist Adam Willis.

“Originally, the tour was only supposed to go for about a month, but we were adamant about going longer, and Pepper’s management and agency (William Morris) worked together to make that happen. We’ll get the exposure we need to move up which will in turn sell more records.”

If you think Willis sounds secure in his belief that his band is on the cusp of much greater acclaim and notoriety, you’d be correct. And yet, there’s something downright heartwarming about the way he says things like “when we succeed,” as opposed to “if we succeed,” when speaking about the band’s hopes for their new record.

Willis says everyone in the group is well aware of what a great opportunity they’ve been given with this particular tour — and they’re determined not to squander it. On the contrary, they seem raring to go.

“It’s absolutely an amazing chance for any up-and-coming artist to get on board with an established act like this,” Willis enthuses.

“We finally linked up with a band that we respect, that’s on the same page as us, with the following to make it happen. It’s amazing to see the response already from being linked with LAW and Pepper. Fans are popping up everywhere and we’re known on a much larger scale than before.”

Willis admits the scale of this trip will be greater than any they have attempted in the past, but even that is viewed by the band with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

“We’ll be playing six nights a week for almost two months with just a break for Thanksgiving. It’s pretty intense, and we all love that. You are talking to four young guys with a serious hunger to be on the road and on stage. We have already done like a hundred shows this year, and cut an album! (laughs) Pepper sold out every show on their last headlining tour, so the crowds will be big in every city — as many as 2,000 each night. That’s enough of a rush to keep you going.”

Willis says the band’s upcoming show at Locos will be their last in Savannah for some time (as the tour kicks off at the Las Vegas House of Blues on October 17), but local fans don’t have to worry about them putting on airs or changing their image.

“That’s not what this is about. Basically, this is us in our rawest form, throwing a massive party in front of our hometown crowd to celebrate the new CD, the new label, the tour, and living in a great city amongst great people.”

Passafire plays Locos Saturday at 10 pm. For more info: www.passafiretheband.com.


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