Trevor Hall is one of those Bob-Marley-channeling-skinny-white-guys whose half-shut eyes and wide, constant smile scream pot-head with a propensity to annoy the shit out of me with vague, impractical, semi-deep musings about the world.
I was only somewhat familiar with Trevor Hall’s music when I decided to check him out at the Rock & Roll Hotel last Sunday, where he played with singer-songwriter Justin Young and local artist Justin Trawick. All I knew is that he has blond dreadlocks and he sings simple songs about peace and love.
Is Trevor Hall a brilliant Rasta? Obviously not. Does he smoke copious amounts of pot? Unclear, but a definite maybe. Is he reasonably–if not very–good at channeling his personal revelations into meaningful, inspirational music? Yes. He cites Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Ben Harper as some of his biggest influences, and his music fuses a large range of genres, including reggae, calypso, rock, folk, and traditional Indian. He reminds me of Michael Franti, which is why I explored his music in the first place.
Based on the pace of his latest album, Everything, Everytime, Everywhere, released last year, I expected a sentimental, acoustic vibe at this show. Hall stuck to acoustic, but delivered ample energy, and we got just as much or more from his three bandmates on bass, electric guitar and percussion. They started each song slowly, often showcasing a traditional texture, and then wove guitar driven rock ‘n roll and uplifting lyrics on repeat into long builds, creating an upbeat, energizing show.
He only played a handful of his newish stuff, including “Different Hunger,” “Brand New Day,” and the ballad “All I Ever Know,” so the set was chock full of older songs: “Sa Re Ga,” “Om Shakti Om,” “Jago Ma,” “My Beating Heart,” and “The Wall.”
His entire set was familiar to most of the audience, which was primarily diehard female fans with X’s on their hands. Trevor Hall barely had one foot on the stage before they began Instagraming, screaming, sing-alonging, and of course, the I love you Trevor!!!!1!1’s.
Age-wise, I wasn’t egregiously outside the majority, but I realized that Trevor Hall is something of a Justin Bieber of reggae pop-rock. Trevor Hall is a talented musician and has created a fairly unique musical concept and form of self-expression. And even with his boyish looks, Trevor Hall is cool. He has dreads. He has tats. He plays guitar. He sings about innocent love and happy life philosophies that we can all basically agree on (such as, love and world peace are good).
He said things like, “this is for the people who have been with us a long time,” before launching into “Rascals,” one of several crowd favorites. He threw his guitar picks into the crowd every third song or so, invoking girl-scrambles and screams. He smiled and laughed and teased the audience and then played a sooooo-cool cover of “You are a Tourist” by Death Cab for Cutie, right into a lengthy drum solo, which transitioned to “The Love Wouldn’t Die.” He’s also affiliated with a charity for children in India. Good work, sir! But that’s definitely more fuel for the teenage swoon flame.
Hall’s image and presence is the kind that appears almost forced or contrived. I was half judging his free spirited, no shoes attire and definitely judging his coconut water. However, regarding Trevor Hall fans, I somewhat hesitate to invoke an age-based superiority complex for obvious reasons: A. who wants to get older, B. who likes anyone who has a superiority complex based on age, and C. we’re talking only a few years difference, and trust me, not long ago for me, this guy would have been, just. simply. the. best.
And really, standing here on my pedestal, as I call him out for pandering and trying too hard, I lie. I can’t say he wasn’t extremely charming in a very genuine, very unassuming way. I also can’t say I too didn’t swoon once or twice over it. Well, dammit.
He smiles and laughs often. He pats his bandmates on the back and puts them in the spot light at every opportunity. He has a great voice. His music has mass appeal, and he kept a great energy in the room. In the end I came to the conclusion that he is a very good person, and probably has a really well thought out and articulate life view, despite my earlier inclination to cross my arms and stubbornly doubt his maturity and self-understanding.
As such, there was an irreconcilable tension in the room, because this audience isn’t helping the image he is seemingly trying to portray, which is, I assume, deep, thoughtful, and legit. The album he released last year is supposed to be his self/life-discovery album, not the teenage finding-himself album. Right now he’s preaching his messages to a room full of screaming young girls, and these are the fans, for better or for worse, who define part of his brand.
I’m sure he appreciates his fans, as any artist appreciates the support and love. But I can’t help but get the sense he’s trying to graduate from this demographic. Like when he visibly cringed at, then ignored, every “I love you” coming from the crowd. Or when the girl from the front row declared loudly “this is so intimate.” He paused, looked at her, and said, eyebrows raised, sort of sarcastically, “This is so intimate…OK.” Like, do you have any idea what that word means. Or when he paused what he was saying to wait for the crowd to please stop yelling their song suggestions ad nauseum. A girl to my right informed me that he hates playing the song “Lime Tree,” which he ended up doing for song number two of the encore. This song, from his younger years, is gimmicky as hell, and he’s right to want to put it aside, but apparently the crowd always demands it.
Nevertheless, he showed us ample love and appreciation, telling us, as he came back for a three-song encore, that he woke up in a fowl, tired mood but that we had lifted his spirits. So, what can I say? Who am I to judge. I guess I’ll just end with, I’m a sucker for guys with guitars. In any case, he’s on my list of artists to watch.