It was a great day for reggae music Saturday. The sun was shining; the weather was sweet. A little nip to the air with the warmth of sunlight felt great on the skin. The gates at Bayfront Park opened at 1 p.m. and folks began to trickle in.
But the 9-Mile Music Festival isn’t all about reggae at its roots. Part of the mission of this 18th annual Marley family concert is to branch out, bringing new music, inspired by reggae, to the table.
Ultra Music Festival veterans Kevens and Major Lazer helped take the music festival in new directions. Kevens with his drum and bass infused reggae music and Jamaica’s bass-heavy phenomenon, Major Lazer, with their neo-dancehall style.
Between each set, DJs Juan Basshead, Mala and Hatcha spun crazy, sometimes overwhelming dubstep. Perhaps, not completely out of place, but enough to make some folks a little crazy, especially those there to experience real reggae.
To add to the perturbing set-up times, Kulcha Shok’s Lance-O, one of the festival’s hosts, felt the urge to shout at the top of his lungs whenever there was any sort of lull in the music. It would have been just as effective had he just spoken—maybe even shouted a little bit to drive a point home—but screaming inceassantly? That was a bit much.
Luckily, the set-up times didn’t drag too long. Groups like pop-reggae icon Inner Circle and Ky-Mani Marley took the stage for 45-minute sets. Inner Circle played their hits and a few classic reggae tunes like Gregory Issacs’ “Night Nurse,” and Joe Higgs’ “Steppin’ Razor.” Kymani’s set included some of his father’s hits like “Redemption Song.” He also brought out a choir to help close his set with a rendition of an old hymn, “Send Down the Rain.”
Things started to really heat up with Thievery Corporation. Known for incorporating styles and instruments from around the world, their focus at the festival was naturally reggae. But they gave us a taste of their full colors with some wonderful sitar work.
Then the heavy-hitters took the stage. When California kings Slightly Stoopid went on, one could swear the concert literally caught fire. Well, I suppose it did. The pungent smell of marijuana was everywhere at the concert, but serious plumes of smoke floated lazily to the sky as Slightly Stoopid rocked their set with classic goodies like “Wicked Rebel,” and “Officer,” as well as some newer joints. Their set featured a lineup chock-full of excellent musicians, including San Diego sax master Karl Denson, that brought the duo’s brand of Cali beach jams to a higher musical plane.
A short while later, Stephen, Julian and Damian Marley took the stage by storm, tossing the spotlight and their long dreadlocks back and forth through a real funky reggae party of a set. Naturally, they performed many of their father’s songs, including rocking renditions of “Jammin’,” and “Get Up, Stand Up.”
During their set, the Marleys also brought onstage a number of guest performers, including Gramps Morgan, members of Third World and a few youngsters that represented the new generation of reggae music in Jamaica.
After the festival closed with an epic rendition of “Could You Be Loved,” it was back to reality for everybody. Outside Bayfront Park, marijuana was once again illegal and the cops were out en force. Burnt out concert goers bumbled to the metro, eyes still blazing red. The concert let out late, so some stragglers got stranded getting off the metro mover at Government Station, hoping the midnight owl bus would come for them soon.
Yet even when the metro stopped running and a good number of folks had to improvise a way home, it was tough not to be smiling.