SOU student Michael Leslie’s dream since junior year of high school is finally coming to fruition.
For the fifth time in as many years of business, the Fire & Water smoke and glass supply shop in Ashland, Oregon hosted a 4/20 Celebration this past Wednesday. The annual observance of cannabis consumption at Fire & Water is a big deal. They go all out.
From live glassblowing by Hurley Glass and Glass Maze, to a hookah lounge, graffiti, live body-painting, and free barbecue chicken and rice, the celebration had something for everyone. Owner Joanna Hurley said this event is mainly a way to give back to their loyal customers, but she also notes, “There’s a lot of stereotypes that come along with the cannabis industry and people who smoke, so we like to show that people can have a good time while being safe and respectful. That’s really important to me.”
Each year, Hurley hires a local band to provide the live music for the event, but this year was unique. Two members of the hired band, Unsheltered, are employees of Fire and Water: Michael Leslie, the singer and rhythm guitarist, and Robert Morris, the (temporary) drummer. Morris plays for another local band, 100 Watt Mind, but is helping Leslie out until Unsheltered’s drummer, Sam Woodard, moves to Ashland. The other members of the band include Henry Craft on guitar, Erik Norseth on bass, and Daniel Dela Cruz on bongo drums.
Unsheltered is an up-and-coming reggae band, an idea birthed four years ago by Leslie. “I came up with the idea of starting a reggae band junior year of high school,” Leslie says. He wrote some originals, and started the band with his drummer, Woodard, and a guitarist, but when Leslie went off to college, the band was no longer located in the same city. Leslie thought he would have to put the Unsheltered dream on hold.
But as it turned out, coming to SOU kept the dream alive as ever. “I met Henry in middle school, then we linked up with Erik in the dorms last year. I showed them some of my originals and we started playing together.”
From there, Leslie, Craft and Norseth played ‘open mics’ in Ashland and started building a chemistry with one another on stage. Playing at Fire and Water was the band’s first gig and a major stepping stone for the performers. “It was awesome seeing all my friends dancing around and having fun because of our music,” Leslie says. “It was exhilarating to see the four years of hard work come to fruition, as this show. And now we know our sound can fuel a good time… That’s awesome.”
The next step for Leslie and Unsheltered is to get their name out and start doing more shows. Leslie says once Woodard moves to Ashland, the band will be complete. They will begin with recording some of Leslie’s 20 originals to build a fan-base to start doing more shows.
“This first show was kind of a trial, to test the waters and see how it goes. And I think it went pretty well… We want to start booking shows in different towns in the Southern Oregon area and play as much as possible. Rob will help us out when he can, but once Sam moves here we’ll really get the ball rolling.”