See-I Rocks the Boat on Saturday
March 15, 2012
Steamboat Springs — At age 10, a tough little Zeebo Steele would go to the nearest clubs and ask the owners if they would give him one free beer.
One beer, and Zeebo would break dance all night.
Growing up with six siblings and no TV in Washington, D.C., meant he had to find ways to entertain himself, he said.
Music was ingrained in his soul from the beginning.
"When you learn how to dance, you can't dance off the beat. You and the music is one," he said in an interview with Explore Steamboat on Tuesday.
He had a choir leader for a mother and built-in talent, but it was a long road before Zeebo and his brother Rootz began their live reggae band, See-I, in the late 1980s.
On Saturday, the Steeles and their eight-piece band will perform in Steamboat Springs as part of the Bud Light Rocks the Boat free concert series.
The show starts at 3 p.m. on the new permanent stage at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
"We're looking forward to playing Steamboat," Zeebo said. "Colorado is like my second home. For me, I've been there so many times, and I know so many people, I feel really comfortable. I feel really laid back there."
Zeebo also plays and tours with the world dub DJ duo Thievery Corporation, whose large live collective shares several members with See-I.
But See-I started years before Thievery hit the D.C. music scene, and the story begins with two very different brothers.
"Rootz was the president of his class," Zeebo said. "I wasn't gonna be president of my class."
He said he was the kid who was selling drugs. "That's not the guy who you want to be class president," he said.
He knows his life could have taken a direction different from what it did. He could have kept selling drugs, but now, he sells his music.
The past "is a part of me in the sense that I own my own business," he said. "But what I do now is legal; I can sell my music to anyone."
The pair ended up in college in North Carolina, where, at a summer camp for troubled children, they began playing music for the campers.
"Me and my brother had the same dream, and it's about See-I," he said. "The reason the group has lasted so long is because I had a dream and he had a dream. That became to both of us like a mission."
He said he calls the bars where he regularly plays in D.C. shrines because of his devotion to writing and performing music.
The outcome of that devotion is a diverse blend of reggae, combining a hard rock and hip-hop edge with sunny horns and laid-back dub beats.
The message, he said, is one of self-reflection.
"It's to question things in life and come up with your own reality," he said. "Some people tell you, 'face reality.' I used to look at life that way, but since I've been doing music, I've been creating my own reality."
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com