If you are searching for a festival with a feel-good vibe then the Montreal International Reggae Festival is where you will find it. Though the crowd is always large there is never anything but peace and love in the air when you attend the festival. It could be the vibes sent out by the great music, it could be that bellies are full due to the great array of delicious food served, or it could be the copious amounts of clouds due to the taking of herbal medicines (if you catch my drift). Whatever the reason there is always fun and great music over this weekend in July.
This three-day festival was celebrating its third year with a tribute to the father of reggae Bob Marley. As it is the 25th anniversary since the death of this reggae legend it is fitting for the festival to pay tribute. In an effort to stay 'modern' the reggae festival has included some reggaeton and dancehall acts besides the usual reggae performers to the bill. Reggae really demonstrated itself as a music of the people. It does not matter what colour, race or religion you are you are welcome at the festival to huddle under the umbrella that is reggae music – there was room for every one last Friday. It truly is an international music and festival in that there were performers from Trinidad, Miami, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
Arriving at 7:30 (the night was supposed to start at 6:00), my friend and I were pleasantly surprised to find that we had not missed very much as they were running 1 hour behind schedule. The first act we say was Marlon Asher who is a reggae performer from the island of Trinidad. He got the night off to a great start with his infectious music. This fairly new performer really preaches the religion of Rasta and is obviously devoted to it. During his 20 minute set he did such numbers as Part-Time Lover (Stevie Wonder cover), No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley cover) and Ganja Planter. Next up was a Latino band called Fulanito. There were many Latinos in the crowd up near the stage and this band really got them singing, moving and shaking. The group's sound is a mixture of reggaeton, meringue, salsa, and cumbia all mixed with hip hop influences. During their short 10 minute set they really go the crowd going. After them was another Latino performer called Voltio. Given a longer set of roughly 60 minutes this performer really got to show his stuff. Again his music is a fusion of rap, Latino music and hip hop and the crowd ate it up. It was high energy stuff and the crowd loved it. They even called him and his two co-rappers back for an encore. A first-time visitor to Canada, Empress was up next. During her 15 minute set her songs included One Love (Bob Marley cover) and Paradise. It was nice to see some estrogen in the show!
Last up was the headliner and the performer that everyone there was waiting to see, Mr. Loverman himself – Shaggy. It was the first time in the whole evening that live instruments were on stage (the rest of the performers used pre-recorded music). Shaggy brought along his good friend and co-performer Rayvon to help out on the evening. He is really a great entertainer! Very interactive with the crowd, especially the ladies, and always moving and dancing about. The crowd really had only got going when he announced that he had to get off the stage due to the fact that the festival had to be done by 11:00 p.m. Darn city rules! Some in the crowd were not happy with the fact that Shaggy only go 1 hour of stage time, but you cannot really complain because he made the most of his time on stage. We certainly got a lot of heart and sweat from this performer.
All in all, other than some scheduling problems, the night was a complete success with everyone going home happier than when they arrived. It was a perfect evening of music and I am looking forward to my return on Sunday evening.
1) Wild 2Nite
2) That Girl
4) Oh Carolina
5) By the Rivers of Babylon (Rayvon singing)
6) Big Up
7) Would You Be
8) In the Summertime
10) Strength of a Woman
11) It Wasn't Me
12) Luv Me Luv Me
13) Redemption Song (Bob Marley cover)