Barnes & Noble brings local reggae music to Merced

Lead guitarist John Dovales-Flores, 32, plays Saturday with Let Us Chant in front of Barnes & Noble in Merced.
Lead guitarist John Dovales-Flores, 32, plays Saturday with Let Us Chant in front of Barnes & Noble in Merced.

Five instruments played by Merced and Planada locals attracted about 30 people Saturday night for the first live show put on by the Merced Barnes & Noble as part of the store’s yearly Vinyl Day.

“It shows that Barnes & Noble isn’t only a bookstore, but we have free events people can go to,” said Chelsea Taitano, community business development coordinator for Barnes & Noble. “We wanted to do something else.”

Barnes & Noble locations celebrate Vinyl Day to invite music lovers to explore the vinyl albums offered by the stores.

Let Us Chant is a reggae band that has been together for around two years. They have played previously in Merced, Modesto and Fresno.

“I love them,” Taitano said. “I’m a reggae fanatic. It’s in my little soul. I appreciate this kind of music.”

Bee Lee, 25, from Atwater said he came to Barnes & Noble for some books and coffee but ended up watching Let Us Chant for most of the time he was there.

“I like it a lot,” Lee said. “It’s a nice, refreshing sound. It has the feeling that I’m at the beach watching a sunset.”

Lee said he doesn’t normally listen to reggae but plays music himself and loves to watch live bands. He said he enjoyed watching the band play because the musicians looked excited and happy while playing.

“It’s very different,” Lee said. “It has a very nice, warm sound to it.”

Antonio Garcia, 27, of Planada is the bass player for Let Us Chant. He was filled with energy and never stopped dancing and jamming to the music.

“There’s a lot of different musical groups within this community, but Let Us Chant is the most abundant,” Garcia said.

The music is the band’s therapy, Garcia said, and so far its members have at least seven to 10 original songs. They plan to put an album out by the end of the year, he said.

Lead singer Marcus Chavez, an acoustic guitar player from Planada, said he writes the songs and chord progressions for the band.

“I feel great,” Chavez said. “It’s so fun playing with these guys.”

Chavez, 23, said the members of the band got him into music and he has been playing the guitar for four or five years.

“I think it’s the perfect vessel,” Chavez said. “It’s the most popular music in the world.”

Merced resident Erik Perez, 30, plays the drums in the group and has been playing for 17 years. Keyboard player Richard Luna, a 28-year-old Planada resident, said he picked up the keyboard roughly a year ago, but has been playing music most of his life.

“It’s very exciting,” Perez said. “It’s more than a hobby for us. We get to share this with our friends and family.”

John Dovales-Flores, 32, lives in Merced and is the lead guitarist for Let Us Chant. He said he loves being a part of the music scene in Merced and has been in it for a long time, hoping that the scene picks up again.

“This is a good chemistry of players,” Dovales-Flores said. “We’ve been doing a lot in a short period of time.”

Let Us Chant will perform at Make America Rock Again in Reedly on Sept. 3. It will be opening for bands like Trapt, Crazytown and Law.

“Natural evolution is happening in front of us,” Garcia said. “I’m happy to be a part of it. I feel really privileged as well.”