If you’ve ever wondered what would’ve happened to Sublime had lead singer Bradley Nowell survived his deadly dance with heroin, I have the answer. It’s in Minneapolis-based reggae rock/ska/dub trio Jon Wayne and the Pain.
Recovering addict Jon Wayne leads the group, and the back story of this Midwesterner’s struggle with addiction reveals commonality with Nowell as well as a peek inside the band’s moniker. Hint: It has less to do with clown-faced serial killers or grizzled cowboys and more to do with a former drug addict and the pain experienced while trying to claw his way to redemption.
Luckily, redemption has shone its light on Wayne, drummer Tito Miller and bassist Chuck Torgerson. Their message is a positive one, breaking free of the drug-focused stereotypes often associated with reggae music.
Formed by Wayne and former drummer Chris Hicks in 2005, the group recorded and released its eponymous debut album in 2008, after the addition of Torgerson. For them, the responsibility of spreading positive vibes through music is paramount, and the trio often squeezes in 20 shows per month in Minnesota and beyond.
Last year saw the release of the band’s second full-length, Follow Through, a 12-track effort that includes guest spots from reggae/ska peers Slightly Stoopid, Christofer “C Money” Welter, Daniel “DELA” Cruz, Oguer “OG” Ocon and Yoni.
The album opens with “Vibe,” a tune set amidst the sound of gentle waves; I braced myself for the voice of Jack Johnson, but was instead pleasantly serenaded by the earnest voice of Wayne telling me he would “rather bleed and die than be superficialized.”
As a whole, Jon Wayne and the Pain aren’t just a trip in the way-back machine. Ska-influenced horns mix with a few moments of electronic dub-style beats and offbeat tempos slammed next to quirky bass lines. This sound is made for anyone looking to find redemption, or maybe just a good time.
John Wayne and the Pain play 9 pm Sunday, June 17, at WOW Hall; $7.