Around 2:30 p.m. this past Saturday, the temperature was at a warm 78 degrees, and a line of hippies, rastas, Japanese tourists, and other assorted reggae fans was gathering outside Bayfront Park. And nine out of 10 of these festivalgoers were hauling not just lawn blankets and sunscreen, but cases of bottled water, canned foods and even Cheez-its. Indeed, the annual Bob Marley Movement Caribbean Festival takes pride in its tradition of collecting canned goods for charity, something it's done since the event's inception. This year, half of all the collected items and donations were slated to go towards the ongoing Haiti relief, while the other half would benefit Curly House, a local food bank and outreach center.
The pass through the donation checkpoint and security screening was made more mellow by the booming bass of Deerfield Beach's very own alt-reggae band the Resolvers, who took to the stage around 3 p.m. The smooth, soothing vocals of lead singer Ojay Smith as he wailed their song "Clear" got the 7000 - plus - and - growing audience swaying and dancing under the beaming Miami sun. Their ska/rocksteady song "Babylon System" also got quite the response and perfectly set the mood for the day to come.
After the Resolvers appeared event's host and a local reggae staple, Lance-O of Kulcha Shok, who served as Marley Fest's master of ceremonies for the ninth year in a row. Other local favorites around were DJs Jahstream of Mixxx96 and Walshy Fire of 103.5 the Beat, who kept the interludes between sets alive and well.
Up next came another local reggae favorite, Jahfe, who describe their music as "heavy yet smooth fusion of roots reggae with rocking dub-hop." The powerful presence of front(wo)man Esther Fortune kept the energy steady. But by now, the weather had shifted from warmth and ultraviolet sunshine to a looming cloud of gray and chilly winds. For once, the meteorologists had gotten it right -- as predicted, by 5 p.m. the sky opened and in came the rain. Yet this didn't dampen anyone's spirits. Hippies love the rain (just see the Woodstock movie).
And if this was 1969, Tarrus Riley would have been a hippie icon, with his good looks, swift charm, and his peace-love philosophy. And like the true Rasta man that he is, he embraced the rain and took to the wet stage with royal grace. "Ain't rain gwan keep me down," he declared. Singing tracks off his latest album, Contagious, as well as his hit single "She's Royal" and "Beware," this South Florida native was greeted with loud applause and female shrieks. Ladies sure do love some Tarrus.
The rain eventually died down by the time the Prophet, Capleton, took the stage. And in what seemed like a scene out of a Disney fairy tale, a giant rainbow quickly formed across the park as Capleton spoke into his microphone stating, "Blessings and one love to the world in the name of Jah Rastafari!" The audience greeted the Fiyah-Man with much enthusiasm as his high-octane performance quickly got the soaked crowd jumping up and down.
Ky-Mani Marley was next, and surprisingly he appeared solo onstage, without his brothers, who were all scheduled to come on later. Nevertheless, Ky-Mani's music has always been different than that of his siblings, with almost a signature rock/punk element to his sound. And indeed, his rock influence pushed through during his 45-minute set; his opening stint for Van Halen two years ago must have left its mark.
On to the next one: Shaggy. The "It Wasn't Me" artist is famous for having brought his reggae style into the Top 40 charts with such songs as "Boombastic" and "Angel," and he got the loudest female shrieks of the night as he grinded and danced his way through his set. Midway through, he even did a reggae medley of some of today's biggest pop tunes: Jay-Z, Black Eyed Peas. You name it, Shaggy sung it. There was almost a comedic element to his Shaggified renditions, particularly Hov's "Empire State of Mind," but then again, it's Shaggy.
The final performance of the night provided the moment everyone had been waiting for, and in essence, what this festival is all about. It was time for the rest of the Marley brothers: Julian, Stephen, and Damian, who took over the stage with what has to be the world's largest entourage. At least 100 Marley affiliates stood across the back, serving partially as back-up dancers, partially as back-up singers.
The massive teamset off a two-hour set of Bob's classics, Stephen's classics, Julian's classics, and Damian's classics. There was a lot to cover, clearly. The set list included Bob's famous "Exodus" (to which started the night), "Buffalo Solider" (which got the thousands of fans chanting "Wah-eee Yah-eee Yo!") and ofcourse "Rastaman Vibration." After the tribute to the late, great elder Marley, then came Julian's turn as he sang a few tracks off his latest release, Awake, which won a nomination for best reggae album at this past Grammys.
It was the set's halfway point and guest appearances by Spragga Benz and Mr. Cheeks got the crowd even more hyped as the brothers took a back seat. Feeding off the energy from Spragga and Cheeks, the Marleys came back up to the forefront with Stephen's hit single "Traffic Jam,: A slowed-down version of "Pimpa's Paradise" and then a rowdy version of "The Mission" got everyone raging. And then it was time for what was suppose to be a surprise guest performance by Nas, which just ended up being Damian solo as he sang "Strong Will Continue," the latest single off Nas and Damian's upcoming album, Distant Relatives.
By now, it was nearing midnight and with a request from Damian, everyone shot up their lighters, cell phones, and hands as the song "Road to Zion" came blaring through the speakers. It was only appropriate that the entire 10,000-plus-packed venue sang word for word as they chanted, "Got to keep on walking, on the road to Zion" And finally, after all the sun, rain, and rainbows, came the grand finale: "Out in the streets, they call it muurrrrrda!" The audience again sang word for word to what has become Jamaica's unofficial national anthem, "Welcome to Jamrock."
After this, the crowd didn't stick around much as the chilly weather and the city park's curfew quickly disperse the giant crowd. All in all, it was another successfully Marley Fest, and we can't wait for next year.
Regarding my earlier Capleton story that was posted last week
, I was highly criticized for NOT mentioning any of the artist's recent controversy regarding his show cancellations in California. I want to state that when the interview was conducted last month, there were, at that point, no cancellations in sight. Secondly, I have consciously decided NOT to bring up this controversy again during this piece as I want to make it clear that this is a concert review and nothing more (or less). Finally, this link
will serve as my response. For me to regurgitate information is useless and a waste of time and I will leave it up to the commentators to fill in the gaps.
Random Detail: Tracii McGregor is the hardest-working woman in show business, hands down! Free Buju!
By the way: To date, the festival has collected close to 2.5 million canned goods!