In the mid-1990s, a Cocoa Tea and Buju Banton combination dubplate for Stone Love Movements on its Corduroy riddim underscored the importance of 2B Grove Road as a dancehall venue. Buju Banton deejayed “whap dem one Stone Love whap dem two/Ova Grove Road or Cargill Avenue”. The location of House of Leo on Cargill Avenue is now a commercial complex, but on Friday night, there was once again a double line of cars on Grove Road, with 2B as the focal point, as music returned to the venue with Fridays at the Grove.
It was a combination of recorded and live music – Welton Irie and Gabre Selassie at the sound system’s controls and Ken Boothe and Inna De Yard Band on the larger stage. Before Boothe went on the stage for a trio of songs, Lloyd Evans welcomed the substantial turnout and announced the return of 2B Grove Road.
“Tonight we start back after about 15 years,” Evans said. He said that the location was important in the development of many artistes who have made a major impact, some of whom like Mark Wonder, are mostly outside Jamaica. Paintings of some other artistes are on a wall at 2B Grove Road, among them Luciano and Sizzla, from a time when the name Homer Harris was near synonymous with 2B Grove Road. “Ken says this is a part of his journey,” Evans said.
Boothe duly took over the microphone and while his few songs could hardly qualify as a performance in terms of length, the vocal quality and superb instrumentation of Inna De Yard made the cut in terms of quality. The band did not play the rhythms on which Boothe recorded Everything I Own and Is It Because I’m Black, choosing instead to keep a steady beat on which the extensive hand-drum section underpinned Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s acoustic guitar.
One song turned out to be three, as the audience asked that Boothe do a little bit more. The Inna De Yard band took over, employing a format of a rotating cast of lead vocalists, each stepping forward from a perimeter line behind the musicians. However, it was the massed voices of Inna De Yard that gave the music an otherworldly quality, the unamplified harmony carrying clear and true.
Plans for the venue also include a restaurant.