Despite the fact that the Montreal International Reggae Festival is five years old it demonstrated an aversion to staying stagnant or predictable. Every year the festival tries out new things keeping what works and discarding what doesn't. They realize that something like this is a work in progress and keep working to make it better. Big Ups!
What has always been the case for the festival continued to be so this year as it was as inclusive as always. All ages and cultures are welcomed and take part in the festival. Children, teenagers, adults, and grandparents were all seen to be having fun at the festival. It has a nice peaceful vibe, so parents do not hesitate to bring their kids. It is nice to see entire families there enjoying reggae music together. I hope this continues for as many years as there is a festival.
This year though it was still at the Old Port the site was moved to a smaller location due to the setting up of another show, but it showed itself flexible and made the best of the situation. Though the area was smaller it actually worked out to the benefit of the festival in that a nice intimate feeling was created. It was not too big and overwhelming. People were kept close together and got to interact more with one another. The fans got to see the musicians close up. The change of venue also led to water being behind/beside the stage. It was cool to see people on the peddle boats stopping to take in the music. Maybe some new fans were gained for next year's festival. What also leant to that reggae feel was the sand right up near the stage. It made you feel as if you were listening to reggae music on the beach. The perfect location for that type of music, right? I agree.
The festival was also more accessible this year in that the prices were right. Ticket prices for each of the three days was lowered from previous years making it more affordable. This allowed families to come and enjoy the festival without breaking the bank. There was also six hours per day (except on the rain day) of free music sponsored by Loto Quebec. Nice touch! Kudos to the organizers!
A new thing this year was the after parties at different locations in Montreal like the House of Reggae on St. Denis. Previously there was one big after party and now you had a choice to go listen to more reggae music at one of the several smaller locations.
The only difficult part of the weekend and it is always a risk when you have an outdoor event was the rain on Sunday. It was difficult for everyone. There's nothing the organizers could do but wait it out and juggle their schedule. Once again I have to give props to them for being flexible and for the fans for being patient while waiting for some music to be played.
Remember for next year that the festival organizers do their best to honour your requests and book the artists you want to see. Just go on the website and send them an email requesting who you would like to see next year. Do you want to see some dancehall with Sean Paul next year then tell them. Is it Buju Banton? The Wailers? Matisyahu? Beenie Man? Just let them know and rest assured they will try their hardest to make it happen.
The Montreal International Reggae Festival is what music festivals in Montreal are all about – great performances, fans who adore music and beautiful (for the most part) weather. I will certainly be coming back next year for the 6th annual Montreal International Reggae Festival.
Photos by Maha Haddad