American Music Festival performer hopes concertgoers put down the phones, watch the show


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) — As the 25th annual American Music Festival got underway at the Oceanfront, one of the headlining band members had a message for concertgoers: watch the show.

Jacob Hemphill, of Alexandra, Virginia, is the lead vocalist for SOJA, a 8-piece band reggae group who formed 21-years-ago. Two Grammy nominations later, the group performed on the physical beach for the first time Friday night. 

“When we first pulled up on it, we were like ‘huh, this is something people probably like a lot’,” said Hamphill. 

The large stage sits between 4th and 5th streets on the beach, with performers facing north. While Hemphill admits reggae music is about a lot more than the beach, the soundtrack certainly fits the atmosphere. 

“The beachy stuff, the surfing stuff, the island stuff, the perfect setting for it,” Hamphill said. “When there something natural like that going on it effects the performance for sure.”

When asked what he hopes the audience gets out of the performance, Hamphill expressed the desire for fans to live in the moment.

“When I look into the crowd and see a person holding up their phone the whole time, sure they will have a moment of video they may care about for a week or two,” Hamphill said. “But if you just put that thing down and just watch the show, now you got the memory and the memory trumps the phone to me. I like when I see people take a picture or two, put the thing away, stand with the people they came with, have a drink and watch the show.”

The group performed for nearly an hour before Ziggy Marley took the stage. 

The American Music Festival continues to Sunday.

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