Nonetheless, the show delivered with memorable sets from the likes of reggae music newcomers Demarco, Bugle, New Kidz and Assassin, alongside article staples Sizzla Kalonji, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Barrington Levy, Junior Reid, and international Soca King Machel Montano. Hosted by a various slew of veteran DJ personalities including the likes of DJ Khaled of Miami’s WEDR’s 99 Jamz and Jabba from Hot 97 in New York, energy was maintained at octane levels as a sea of flags representing Afro-Caribbean massives from Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua, Bermuda, the US Virgin Islands and more waived ferociously in accordance with bullhorn sirens throughout the afternoon and night.
Timing proved to be the one Achille’s heel of the show, as a three hour late start and excessive band changes provided for lapses that limited the performance time of the more popular and celebrated acts. By 4pm, opening acts such as Bugle, Demarco and Assassin wasted no time in delivering powerful and energetic sets to warm the crowd over. The newcomers were followed by veterans such as Junior Reid and Barrington Levy, whose respective classic offerings of “One Blood”, “Broader than Broadway” and “Murderer” among others provided a much an inspiring trip down memory lane. DJ Khaled provided a welcome break from the norm as rappers Ace Hood and T-Pain joined him in injecting the crowd the singles “Cash Flow”, “I’m So Hood” and T-Pain’s club favorite “Buy You A Drink”.
Widely hailed as one of the genre’s greatest artists and the “Voice of Jamaica”, Buju Banton was a welcome delight as always, performing a string of hits from his extensive catalogue. The same could be said for Sizzla Kalonji, whose energetic stage presence was as much entertaining as inspiring. Yet, it was the reigning dancehall king Beenie Man, who enjoyed the biggest welcome from the thousands in attendance. His set saw the crowd’s energy rise to heights unseen anywhere else in the show (the closest coming courtesy of international soca king Machel Montano, who was also honored as the ambassador of Caribbean music by the city of Atlanta after leading their Caribbean carnival the night before.). An awkward but special moment came when Beenie acknowledged the absence of Mavado and longtime musical nemesis Bounty Killa, by performing Mavado’s latest popular tune “On The Rock”, erupting thousands into a flag waiving frenzy.
Unfortunately, excessive band changes made for time constraints that afforded the celebrated Beenie Man just 20 minutes of stage time, triggering many to curse their way toward the exits upon his end. DJ Jabba immediately took to the stage, issuing a series of apologies, pleading the crowd to honor the remaining artists. Initial plans to have reggae champion Anthony B split playing time with Beenie Man were abandoned, as 10 minutes would’ve surely proven insufficient.
The closer was none other than the Original Don Dada Supercat, who waisted no time in delivering the classic offerings “Boops”, “Rally Back” and “Leaving on A Jet Plane”. But while fans did their best to receive the him, the man hailed as the Wild Apache could neither match nor capitalize off the hype injected by the beloved Beenie. And just as he started to perform the popular old time favorite “Ghetto Red Hot”, the legend abruptly walked offstage.
While high admission prices, poor VIP seating areas and a wide ranging lack of organization and execution criticisms were rampant, the event repeated in closing out free of any acts of violence or incident fort the second year in a row. As patrons hurried to get their last orders of food from vendors, questions of one absent artist in particular lingered in the minds of many. “Elephant Man should’ve been here,” said DJ Jizzy Jumpoff off Boston sound system Madd Assassinz. Like many who had travelled as far off as Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia, PA and even the US Virgin Islands, the DJ had made the trip all the way from his hometown of Boston, MA in hopes of seeing the best in reggae. “As good as the show was, I just know he would’ve made all the difference,” said the DJ in closing. Perhaps next year.
Victor “VI” Kakulu
STILLMATIX—Rated as the best!!!