On a cool Friday evening at the Clubhouse Bar & Grill, band members of Na’an Stop link arms to form a five-man circle while the audience is left wondering what is on the verge of happening. An unrivaled howl comes from inside the circle as one of the guys shouts, “Li Hing!” while the others respond with a strong, “Powda’!”
The Colorado-based reggae band has been rolling with this pre-show ritual since their first tour in 2013, when Smith introduced them to the sweet and sour Li Hing powder, a Hawaiian favorite used to sprinkle on fruits and mixed drinks.
“We kind of just use that as an amp-up little chant before the show to get everybody on the same page,” Huber said. “It definitely happened randomly. Like a nickname would.”
What did not happen randomly is the intent to form a band, a plan the two Sacramento natives, Tom Huber (guitar/bass/vocals) and Joe Pesa (drums), had wanted to accomplish since their freshman year in college. That plan that came to fruition in 2011 when they met Patrick Mulholland (trombone/keyboards), Caton Smith (bass/vocals) and David Halvorson Jr. (lead vocals/trumpet) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Although Na’an Stop, who together use a solid approach to expressing the handsome rhythm they share, has performed from the San Francisco rooftops to the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver–and the many bars, backyards and theaters in between–this particular show on a cold December night was a mix of friends and family eager to see Huber and Pesa play in their hometown.
“Playing in front of a crowd that we know is pretty amazing,” Huber said. “It’s just always good to look out and see people you know jamming out to your songs. And if they seem to be enjoying it, it’s always better.”
Establishing the temper on this evening, the show began with “Instant Gratification,” one of the breeziest songs on their debut album, “From the Deep.” Heads in the crowd oscillated to the effortless groove, while Huber slowly picked his strings, Smith calmly plucked his, Mulholland dabbled lightly on the keys and Pesa held steady on the sounds of the drum.
“We definitely feed off the crowd’s energy,” Huber said. “It’s important to play good music as well as put on a good performance… dance around, maybe coordinate some dance moves just to get the crowd more involved.”
While space was limited inside the club, the infectious sound of reggae inspired a birthday girl’s grandmother to take it upon herself to recruit dancers toward the evening’s makeshift dance floor. Without missing a beat, Halvorson Jr. gave a big smile as he photobombed the ladies’ pictures and embraced the moment sincerely with his vocals.
Similar to the ladies getting pulled to the dance floor, there was no escaping the impetuous spirit of Na’an Stop as the night embodied the lyrics in their song “The Rain”: “beautiful to hear, such a pleasure to see.”
Sacramento was one of six California cities on a tour that also took Na’an Stop to Arizona and New Mexico. The band has a line-up of shows in Colorado for January.
To learn more about the band and to listen and purchase music, visit NaanStopMusic.com.