The 5th edition of the Montreal International Reggae Festival kicked off with great weather and a day that highlighted Montreal reggae acts. Starting early in the afternoon on the (free admission) Loto-Quebec Stage DJ Foot (from McGill's CKUT radio station) provided the interset DJ music and Montreal bands Riddim SoulJah & TNT Express, Soul Sense Band and Blood of Zion Band provided the live music. On this beautiful summer day a crowd gathered to enjoy the rhythms of reggae music and dance on the grass. The music lasted all afternoon and as it was given to us free of charge the price was most certainly right!
After taking a little break for dinner, I returned to the site to take in the action on the Main Stage. I was a bit disoriented in the beginning as the stage has been moved from its previous location as they were setting up for the African show that is to take place there. The Main Stage is now a little east of its previous location with the water behind the stage and Bonsecour Market as the backdrop. It is actually a more picturesque location and as it is smaller, a more intimate setting.
Arriving at 8:30 I got there in the middle of the I-Trinity's set. They are an American act hailing from California. This 8-piece band demonstrated the multi-cultural dimension of reggae music as they had a number of Caucasian musicians and the girl on violin was Asian. Props to them for loving reggae music! During their set they played songs entitled "Roots and Culture" and "Jah Jah is a Living Man". It was a good start to the evening.
While they were setting up the stage for the next act we took the opportunity to walk around the Reggae Festival 'village'. In a ring around the grounds there are white tents with different vendors inside of them. CBC RadioOne was there along with Sirius Satellite Radio, Heineken Beer Tent, Hype Drinks (giving out free samples), different souvenirs, a ton of assorted food from restaurants like Ma's Place (on Sherbrooke in NDG) and Paradise Restaurant, smoothies, and art. Plenty of great food (patties, rotis, curry, rice and peas, etc.) and drink (sorrel, fresh lemonade, fresh sugar cane juice, etc) to be had at reasonable prices.
After enjoying some DJ music courtesy of Examin Sound Crew from Montreal, another Montreal band, Inword Band, took the stage at 9:15. The band's focus is consciousness raising through their music, which is comprised of all original tunes. This is saying a mouthful for a reggae band, as they usually like to throw in a cover or two. This 5-piece band did Montreal proud during its 40 minute set. The vocalist is amazing with his singing voice sounding a little like Seal's (if that is not too much of an insult within the reggae community) and has charisma to burn. His bandmates were also tight. Their songs really got the crowd dancing. They played tunes such as "Jah People", "Own Way", Thank You Friend" and "Jah Will Give You Rest". They did throw in a little of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" into one of their own songs, but you could hardly count that as a cover. For my money they were the strongest act of the day.
At 10:25 headliners Midnite Band from St-Croix started playing. The 6-piece band has released 3 albums that have spawned several hits on the reggae charts. They have a style that is all their own. It was like listening to a combination of reggae music with 70s psychedelic or progressive rock. Each of their songs was over five minutes with plenty of instrumentation involved. Almost like a little reggae opera within each song. They definitely have a signature sound. During their 60 minute closing set they performed their songs "Proceed", Bushman", "Rasta to the Bone", "Love the Life You Lead", and "I Chant". Much more mellow an act than the previous one they were an interesting choice to close up the evening.
After listening to and watching several hours of reggae music it just wet my appetite for some more. Remember that the party does not have to end at 11:30 as each night there are after parties at different offsite locations, so check the website for more information. And there is more live reggae music to be had Saturday evening at the Old Port, so come on down!
July 12 – Lineup (5:00-11:30):
-Laza of L.M.S.
Photos by Maha Haddad