The music begins with a laid-back Hawaiian beat, down tempo guitar chords bouncing along with the audience. Just as a smooth voice begins to croon, a horn section screeches into focus and 10 musicians begin to jam.
Widely recognized throughout the crowded clubs of San Francisco, Native Elements, a reggae band with rootsy leanings, will appear at the Peace Lutheran Church Reggae Love Fest on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Not quite your traditional reggae band focused on a few percussions and ethnic instruments, Native Elements draws from various musical styles and incorporates those melodies into their own tunes.
Because the 10-piece band -- which consists of three horn players, a full rhythm section, pianist, bass, drums and two vocalists -- originally specialized in punk rock, funk and heavy metal, the switch to reggae was almost unexpected.
"Most are four or five piece bands," drummer and vocalist Chris Cortez said, adding that with this "big band approach, we're like a Bob Marley meets Duke Ellington."
When lead singer Jose Pangan visited Jamaica several years ago, the land famous for those reggae greats as well as earlier ska bands, he came back with a video of influential dub/reggae band Black Uhuru.
"The rage we heard before was Jimmy Chris and Bob Marley," Cortez said, adding that Black Uhuru had a rock influence. "It opened our ears to what you can do with reggae."
As they ventured deeper into the rhythms of reggae, they realized that it encompassed several other types of music, namely soul, jazz and rock.
"It was a natural fit," Cortez said. "It was the first music genre that spoke to us."
Music has been a constant in Cortez's life since his youth and played in his first band when he was 15. Along with other a few core members of Native Elements, Cortez was the drummer of a heavy metal, hardcore thrash band called Demented in San Francisco.
"We would run home after school and run in the garage and start learning to play our instruments," Cortez said.