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Jessica Brown isn't sure why Auburn has embraced her band so passionately, but it has embraced the city right back.

That band, Root Shock, will headline the City Sizzlin' Summer Kickoff Saturday at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and surrounding Exchange Street area.

The fourth annual event will begin with a sidewalk chalk art competition, "Let's Chalk About It Again!" from noon to 6 p.m. outside the 25 South St. center. Winners will be announced at 7 p.m. There will also be food and other vendors, cornhole with Classic Hits 99.3, and music by Auburn psychedelic garage country trio The Honky Tonk Hindooz from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard.

Root Shock will take the showmobile stage facing Exchange Street at 8 p.m. 

Brown, one of the members who founded the soulful reggae band in Syracuse in 2012, performs on vocals with Bill Eppel on bass, Phil Grajko on guitar and vocals, Brian Lauri on keyboards, Tyre Outerbridge on drums and Jocko Randall on percussion. In a phone interview Wednesday, Brown said this lineup has been together for more than a year and is becoming "really tight" as a live act.

"We've created a really good atmosphere on the stage, and we have a lot of fun," she said. "We try to be as authentic to ourselves as possible."

The band has released a 2016 self-titled album and a 2018 EP, "Many Paths." In March, it released a music video, "Waves," directed by Jesse Conti, of Auburn. Both that and a previous video he directed, "Ripple," were filmed in the city, Brown said. More recently, at SALTSpace in Syracuse, Conti shot a live performance with several of Root Shock's Auburn fans in the crowd.

That following has grown because the band — despite having no one from Auburn — plays the area so regularly. It's performed at Prison City Pub & Brewery, Auburn Public Theater and Music on the Mall, among other venues. Now, when Root Shock plays outside the area, Brown sees many of the same faces from Auburn follow the band, wearing its T-shirts and reciting her lyrics.

"Obviously there are people in Auburn who are really into what we're doing," she said. "That's really special, the individuals who've been with us for years and watched us grow."

The band will be busy this summer, Brown said, performing up to three times a week across not only New York, but as far as North Carolina. And after recently signing with booking agency Madison House, of Colorado, Root Shock will likely branch out farther. For now, though, all the band's members continue to work full-time jobs, Brown said, so music remains a balancing act for them.

That balance allows Root Shock to leave it all on the stage. Its music — which mixes reggae with touches of soul, jazz, psychedelic rock, Latin and other styles — translates into sets that are high energy and full of affirming messages. And that makes the band an appropriate choice for a show that both takes place during Pride Week and sends Auburn into summer. 

"It's a safe space for everybody, including children and older people, people of all races, genders, sexual orientations," Brown said. "We want you to have fun, be comfortable and be yourself."


WATCH: Root Shock, "Ripples" (directed by Jesse Conti, of Auburn, and filmed in the city)

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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