Today’s reggae scene in Denver and the rest of Colorado is quite strong, as advertised and promoted by sites like Reggae Movement, where I learned about a place called Opal’s on 9th and Lincoln that has a weekly reggae DJ night called ”Lion Saturday.” Opal’s serves a lot of sushi, fried eels and other seafood, also an excellent selection of Italian bistro fare and entrees like Grilled Ribeye steak and Chilean Sea Bass. No jerk chicken or friend plantains, as I’d hoped, but why split hairs. I was glad to find a new dancehall joint in Denver. I’ve been a fan of reggae music for more than half of my life, and while it’s not widely known, many rock and roll bands from the UK to become popular in America during the sixties, from the Kinks to less obvious ones like the Beatles, cut their teeth on the sounds from Jamaica along with the ones from America.
“Dress code strictly enforced,” reads Opal’s flyer. A perfect fit. I’ve been living the mod dress style of porkpie hats and shiny shoes and braces all this time without a place to show it off. Gave my whole face a haircut today with adjustable clippers, and judging by these instruments, all my facial hairs are 1/8” in length. What’s more, I’m almost finished growing the new sideburns.
Some months ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I had my first taste of jerk chicken in years, along with yellow rice and friend plantains, just like Sadie used to serve it from her magical kitchen in Denver’s Five Points until it closed up shop or relocated elsewhere. After that meal, my New Mexico friends and I attended a dancehall aboard an empty car in the Santa Fe railyards, listening to a mash up of the Bob Marley classic “Them belly Full (But We Hungry)” with reggae-fied hip hop selections from artists like K‘NAAN and J Period. For the first time, I realized that “mashup” craze, previously dismissed by me as not artistic enough, was no less than an evolution of the sampling motif incepted previously by the hip hop scene.As a teenager, my friends and I discovered a weekly event called Club Rub a Dub, poppin’ every Saturday night at a place called Sadie’s Afro-Caribbean Café in Denver’s Five Points. The room was big and dark and purple, shadows collecting in the corners, dancehall sound system pumping. Too mawkishly timid at the time for approaching any of the women, I was no less aware of their charms, and came back every Saturday night if possible, energetically jerking and skunking alone out there in the middle of the dance floor trying to win their favor. I remember some regulars told me once I was actually the one doing it most correctly, whatever that’s worth: "Mesa dem jus shuffle." Red Stripe after Red Stripe and everyone had a great time.
A few Caribbean restaurants have popped up in Denver in years since, even a few dancehall nights, but none seems to have rooted here. Until now, that is. In the afternoon, you may find you have Opal all to yourself. Outsmart your inner outsider with their happy hour deals along with the sushi and wraparound couches, since it won’t last long…especially not on a Saturday. As noted by Reggae Movement and the reputable “nightlifedenver.com” website, Opal Lion Saturdays, featuring reggae, calypso and old school R&B flavors on the wheels of steel, provided by top ranking local selectas like DJ Bushy Bush, DJ Kazz and DJ Sunny P are “out of control” as a rule, and first timers are likely to be pleasantly astounded by the bevy of dreadlocked cultists and flashy hip funksters found aswim in Opal’s cozy darkness once the doors open at 9 PM.
Another great new resources for local reggae lovers is “Colorado Reggae Scene” on Facebook which makes a practice of advertising joints like Opal’s as well as promoting local appearances by touring reggae acts like Rootz Underground Movement who played Cervantes Other Side on March 15th. The intent is to manifest a collective of the likeminded here in the Mile High City after so long “rudely” scattered, each burning seed of Jah Love burning toward its inevitable eventual reunion with the I. Outsmart the inner outsider, on Lion Saturdays, at Opal’s Restaurant. New traditionalists like myself will be right in our element. Just as soon as I finish growing these sideburns.
Jerry Dammers/2 Tone Records: 2Tone.info
Caribbean food: IslandFlave.com/recipes
Opal’s restaurant: OpalRestaurant.com
Colorado Reggae Scene Facebook page: Facebook.com/Colorado.Scene
Reggae Movement: ReggaeMovement.com