A week after the Rolling Stones played a semi-secret club date as a musical publicity stunt, reggae scion Ziggy Marley did the same -- performing a short set of his father’s standards and his own originals Friday afternoon at a remote roadside cafe on the Angeles Crest Highway, to an audience of several hundred motorcycle riders.
The carefully staged, strategically leaked, private event was hosted by Ducati.
The mashup of Marley, mountains and motorcycles was a promotion for the DVD release of “Marley Road Trip South Africa 2010,” a six-part television documentary produced by David Alexanian, director of “Long Way Round,” a similar TV documentary about a motorcycle trip around the world taken by actor Ewan McGregor and his fellow motorcycle enthusiast Charley Boorman.
Alexanian’s latest film concerns a journey the Marley men -- Ziggy and his younger brothers Robbie and Rohan -- made across Africa in 2010 to honor their father’s legacy, bring a message of music, unity and peace to the African nations, and attend World Cup soccer games -- while crossing South Africa on Ducati Multistrada touring bikes.
After a phalanx of 100 motorcycles made a slow ascent from La Canada to famed Angeles Crest motorcycle destination Newcomb’s Ranch, the heavy-dredded Ziggy swapped bike gear for guitar. Accompanied by a second guitarist, backup vocalist and percussionist, he reggaed through acoustic versions of “Africa Unite,” “It’s Family Time,” “Love Is My Religon,” “Three Little Birds” and “Could You Be Loved.”
The crowd was enthusiastic, if reserved -- there was little drinking, and no dancing -- and seemed more eager to hear motorcycle stories than Marley music.
Perhaps tired from an afternoon of media roundtables, the Jamaican music star -- who talks like Trenchtown but lives in Beverly Hills -- was not inclined to chat.
“I took a little trip to Africa, rode some bikes, came back with some dents and scrapes,” he said, between numbers. “But I never rode with a group of people like this. I feel like I have a new family.”
Both Marley brothers confessed they’d never been on the world-famous Crest before, nor ridden such winding roads. Asked what he thought of the route, brother Robbie, a shy man with a trim beard and a T-shirt bearing the phrases “Hemp Rules” and “Coco’mon,” said, “Too short!”
The crowd may have felt similarly about the brief set. As the elder Marley left the stage at the conclusion of “Could You Be Loved” -- calling out, “Thank you family! See you on the next ride!” -- the crowd clapped and called for an encore, roaring “Ziggy! Ziggy!” for several minutes before giving up.
Soon they mounted their Ducatis and rode down from the mountains.