SOJA rocks Radford

On Feb. 15, Radford University played host to SOJA with special guest The Movement, the first of two concerts brought to campus by R-SPaCE this spring semester.

The Movement was founded in 2004 by Josh Swain and Jordan Miller, moving from Columbia, S.C. to Philadelphia, before recruiting Jay Schmidt and Gary Jackson. They have two studio albums, On Your Feet (2004) and Set Sail (2008), with a new album due soon.

SOJA. Photo from Courtney Earll/ The Tartan.

SOJA, or Soldiers of Jah Army, started in Arlington, Va. in 1997. The members are Jacob Hemphill, Bob Jefferson, Ryan “Bird” Berty, Ken Brownell and Patrick O’Shea. They have seven studio albums, the most recent of which are Born In Babylon (2009) and Strength to Survive (2012), along with two live DVDs.

Doors opened at 7 p.m., but there was a line of students outside of Preston Hall starting at 6 p.m. People waiting to enter were told to form two lines, men and women, in order to be searched for alcohol, drugs or weapons by the Radford University police.

Lead singer Jacob Hemphill. Photo from Courtney Earll/ The Tartan.

The first 1,000 people in the doors were given orange wristbands, allowing them access to both the upper and lower levels of Preston. A few lucky audience members were also given blue wristbands that let them into the orchestra pit directly in front of the stage. Anyone who came in once all of the wristbands were given out could only watch the show from the upper level.

Once inside, people could stop by both The Movement’s and SOJA’s merchandise tables where everything from stickers to CDs and vinyl to t-shirts were for sale.

The Movement began playing a little after 8 p.m. and had the crowd cheering. While there were seats available, many opted to stand up in a crowd as close to the stage as they could get. The reggae mood was soon in full swing with songs like “Say Hello,” “Sweet Summertime” and “To the Moon and Back.”

After finishing at 9 p.m., there was a 30-minute window for people to stretch their legs and look at merchandise before heading back into the auditorium.

Soldiers of Jah Army. Photo from Courtney Earll/ The Tartan.

Soon, the lights went out and the crowd chanted, “SOJA! SOJA! SOJA!” with the glow of 30 or 40 lighters held in the air. Suddenly, the colored lights came on, the backdrop was lowered, and the band started playing.

After the first few songs, Hemphill took a break from singing to say, “This is the first time we’ve played at Radford since SOJA was a band. And we’re really happy to be here.”

They played old fan favorites like “Losing My Mind,” “Don’t Forget,” “Thunderstorms” and “Summer Breeze,” along with songs from their newest album, Strength to Survive. The cheering was almost loud enough to drown out the sounds of percussion, saxophone, trumpet, bass and guitars playing in perfect reggae style.

The music didn’t end until 11 p.m. with the band playing two encores of their Jamaican-influenced music. Right before their last song, Hemphill announced to the crowd that they’d be signing merchandise and meeting fans in the lobby after the show. People lined up waiting for a chance to snap a photo and snag a signature.

The next concert R-SPaCE is bringing to RU will be Mac Miller at the Dedmon Center on March 29.