By Jen Cheshire
Photographs courtesy of Monty Jay of MJPh0to
Reggae in the Desert is a festival I see advertised every year but until this year I had not had the opportunity to go to. Since I have relocated to Las Vegas, home of Reggae In The Desert, I, at last, had the chance to attend. The line-up wasn’t announced until quite late compared to the other summer festivals, so much so that I wondered if this was another reggae festival that had fallen by the wayside, but when it was announced I was quite excited. At the pre-sale price of $19, I couldn’t believe that I would be seeing this caliber of artists which included The Mighty Diamonds, Third World, Kabaka Pyramid, Cocoa Tea and Collie Buddz as well as support artists. I would have paid more than that to see any one of these acts.
The day was gearing up to be a hot one and as I had been told that the parking lot fills up quickly, I got there as the gates opened. I found out that another advantage of getting there early was the opportunity to get a spot under a tree, a very sought after location by mid-afternoon.
The vendors were selling the usual variety of clothing, accessories, and artist merchandise with food vendors ranging from Jamaican to Mexican with the Snow Cone vendor becoming very popular by the mid-afternoon at the hottest temperature.
The crowd was being warmed up by DJ V.I.P from Los Angeles, who also played between acts while the stage was being set up. The opening act was Ras Kronik but before he came on stage his two female back up singers each had the opportunity to sing a song. I never did find out who they were but they were very good and had the talent to be successful artists themselves.
Arise Roots, a band from Los Angeles, unfamiliar to me, was on next. This band really impressed me. They had the audience going, were musically and lyrically excellent and I felt deserved to be higher on the lineup than second. They were also set to perform at the after-party downtown. This is definitely a band to watch out for.
Following Arise Roots was another Los Angeles band, Iya Terra. This band had the roots reggae message but with more of the West Coast/ Island sound.
Next up were The Mighty Diamonds. If you’ve ever seen The Mighty Diamonds you can be sure that this veteran group will give you a good show. They had the audience singing along with old favorites, including “Pass The Kouchie”.
Kabaka Pyramid was delayed coming on stage because of a problem with his keyboard player’s computer and the crowd was getting a little restless, but he made up for it with an excellent performance with professionalism, despite his set being cut short.
Next on the line-up was Cocoa Tea. Prior to his coming on stage, Prestige, who is touring with Cocoa Tea, came on and sang a couple of songs. Cocoa Tea was the artist I was most looking forward to seeing perform as I had never had the opportunity to see him live. He started his set with “The Rastaman Chant” a fitting start to a mix of socially conscious songs and old favorites like “She Loves Me Now” and Hurry Up And Come” This was the hottest time of the day, 104F, but it didn’t deter the crowd from standing in front of the stage in the sun and dancing and singing along with Cocoa Tea’s best-known songs. Several times he urged the people with health problems to sit out of the sun for their own safety and when a person in the front succumbed to the heat, he stopped the show until the medics had checked them out. Cocoa Tea entertained with endless energy that could compare to acts thirty years his junior. I was not disappointed.
After 45 years in the business and 10 Grammy-nominated albums, you would be hard-pressed to find a band to rival Third World, who was next up. I had not seen Third World since the passing of Bunny Rugs but the quality of the band was still exceptional with AJ Brown as the replacement frontman. I’m not sure if it was planned or coincidental but the temperature was 96 degrees when they played their famous song “96 Degrees in the Shade”, and everyone was singing along.
Headlining the festival was American/Bermudan artist Collie Buddz. Collie Buddz is not an artist I am very familiar with, apart from his 2006 hit single “Come Around”. He put on an excellent show with a selection of his older songs and his more recent “Good Life” and “Legal Now”. As a proponent for the legalization of marijuana his “smoking” songs were particular favorites with the crowd and a good way to end a great festival.
I was told that the number of attendees, ages ranging from babies to seniors, has been growing every year, so it looks as if this is a festival that’s here to stay.