Summer is a wonderful time, and with the exception of state fairs it’s safe to say it’s probably the most fun you’ll have all year (sorry Christmas). This is where the Reggae Rise Up Music Festival comes into play. It’s just an all around splendid time and this year I was returning for the two-day version of last year’s single day extravaganza. I was armed with only a debit card, sunscreen and ample amounts of optimism. This two day trek would be a testament to cheerful repetitive beats and herbal breezes that remind you you’re not that old.
Day 1 – Saturday (Photos)
The very first step in any music festival is to establish the layout of the land. Facing the stage and wandering left brought you to the drinking crowd, who took over the whole left side and were easily the majority. This was the social area of the park and a haven for people that like to take naps head first.
If I walked to the stage again and went to the back right I’d find the couples (and third wheels) area. This was the adorable section of the park and cuddling was rampant. Reggae festivals are known hangouts for snuggly couples—sweaty dreadlocks are quite the aphrodisiac apparently. The third wheels sat in agony and drank quietly to themselves.
To the right side of the stage was the stoner/family area. That might sound like an odd grouping but after witnessing it, all I can say is … I get it. Stoned gentlemen playing “beach ball” with kids was a delight to watch, if you didn’t think about it. This looked like a nice place to write and take it all in, so I took up residence.
Under my shady tree I watched the initial performers warm the crowd into an odd little frenzy. I realized in this moment that reggae dancing is like rocker dancing if the rockers became zombies. I also became able to tell time by intervals of Bob Marley covers (if you answered every 47 minutes you are correct). I was comforted by Utah’s local reggae scene in these initial sets and later on throughout the festival , I noticed that our guys happen to sound leagues better than a lot of the national bands out there.
Hirie was the first of the non-regional bands and they played like No Doubt, before they discovered pop. The female lead for Hirie easily wins most fit performer for the festival and had a fantastic set of pipes to boot. The band had a sax player, so instantly I was intrigued (I love sax). During this time a series of hula hoopers appeared throughout the crowd and made this childhood instrument almost appear graceful (almost). Thrive came out next and blasted the audience into submission with catchy riffs and the fantastic use of horns (I love horns). The singing drummer is always impressive and the band took brief steps into rock to mix up things even further.
Through the Roots was the first of the San Diego–based bands to take the stage and they represented accordingly. The exaggerated use of herbal products really became apparent at this time and the view of the stage was cloudy at best. Through the Roots played a cover of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and I thought one heavily sedated crowd member was going to pull a hammy trying to keep up with the beats.
The Expendables were the first of the major headliners to take the stage. By this time the audience had achieved concerning levels of inebriation and the dancing became beyond interpretation. To make matters worse The Expendables played the Luniz classic “I Got 5 on It” and the couple in front of me took the grinding action to the ground. The children playing with glow swords to my right were undeterred by this tumbling about and batted each other fearlessly despite the sloppy attempts at foreplay.
Matisyahu was the final performer of the first day. The vocal talent of this performer was impressive. He could belt out the notes, then jump into some hip-hop lyrics that would make Twista blush. It was quite the site looking around and seeing so many families and individuals enjoying themselves—I couldn’t think of a better ending to the first day.
Day 2 – Sunday (Photos)
The last day of festival featured some of Utah’s finest local bands. Bludgeon Muffin, 2 ½ White Guys and the Cody Jordan Band are definitely worth checking out—they did an excellent job of exciting the early participants of the festival. The crowd was dressed in more comfortable attire the second day and bare feet roamed the park.
San Diego’s Stranger came out with a strong stage presence and got the audience dancing early with their versatile and enthusiastic performance (the trombone player was especially pumped). Once again the horn/sax combo came out and added a chipper expression to my eventually sunburned face; lead singer David Omelas even whistled for a few songs, which was a first for the festival.
Another San Diego band, Fortunate Youth returned to the festival this year to loud applause from those that remembered how much fun they were last year. Fortunate Youth always seems to get slotted for the hottest part of the day and, this year, rain wasn’t there to save them. The women that chose heavy makeup for the outing were now battling sad clown’s disease (runny eye liner) and the guys who choose attire with sleeves had frightening levels of pit stains. None of this affected the attitude of the patrons and they jumped, twisted and shouted, despite all the sun’s efforts.
Stephen Marley is the happiest performer on earth. I took roughly two dozen pictures of him and he was smiling in everyone. His set consisted of his own music mixed with some of his father’s more popular songs (“Buffalo Soldier,” “Could You Be Loved”). He was also the most experimental of the festivals performers and went as far as dubstep to convey his message of laidback happiness.
Slightly Stoopid was the final performer of the festival and one of the bands people were most excited to see. The rum drenched gentleman next to me described them as the most popular band you’ve never heard of. The San Diego seven piece band played heavily from their first three albums and lead singer Miles Doughty was extremely charismatic in engaging the audience. The police at this point of the festival had caught on to the herbal implications of the reggae genre and rolled through the crowd in abundance. My son commented that it was the first time he could clearly see the stage and that air actually smelled like air. Slightly Stoopid continued to play thoughout this and clocked in a tremendous set just under two hours.
The twilight of the show featured a thinned out audience that was clearly showing effects of two days of partying. I saw moms pushing strollers with beers in the cup holders and people dancing by themselves long after the music had stopped. Some individuals just rolled around on the ground and others had lengthy conversations with no one (I’m hoping the dreadlocks hid the Bluetooth). The weirdness was almost welcome at this point and at several times throughout the festival, I scribbled down what a pleasure it was to write about these last two days. I see roughly three shows a week during the summer and everyone I was with commented that this was the best and easily the friendliest crowd we’d seen. The music was incredible and a lot of the sound issues had been corrected from the year before. I was honored to be invited and I’d like to thank everyone involved for making the festival a wonderful relaxing time. I’m already thinking about next year’s festival and can’t wait to see who they bring out next.