What: Reggae Sumfest
Where: Montego Bay, Jamaica
When: 16-17 July, 2015
In One Word: Incredible
After a decade as a music writer and blogger, I have been to visited some incredible places to see some incredible concerts: from Iggy Pop inside the arctic circle, to Jack White and Metallica on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Now I have a new memory that might just top them all: spending 40 hours in Jamaica to experience Reggae Sumfest at Montego Bay.
From my arrival in Montego Bay, everything about my experience was literally out of this world: in the most positive sense of the phrase, most of all due to all the super welcoming and friendly Jamaican people that I met, but also in the sense that really, I’d never quite experienced anything like this when compared to all the concerts that I’ve attended in North America and Europe. After being whisked past airport security thanks to an escort from my hosts with the Jamaica Tourist Board, I found myself in a car , where the driver Tim promised me that I was about to experience “the greatest show on earth” – he was deadly serious about this. Aside from talking about Sumfest, during the short car ride, Tim also recommended that I order his favourite cocktail while in town: “it’s called a steel baton! Yes, it will beat you down, then you will come up for another, and it will beat you down again!!”
Tim’s words were in the back of my mind for my two nights in Montego Bay, as I would grow to appreciate Sumfest for it’s shear spectacle but also for the ‘steel baton’ unrelenting force, as it pounds on through the night until dawn each morning – nobody parties harder than a Jamaican at Reggae Sumfest!
For my first night at Sumfest, I got to experience the spectacle that is Dancehall Explosion night. I have never seen anything like this before: from 9pm until 6am the next morning over 29 different acts took to the stage, in what was similar to a cabaret style showcase of Jamaica dancehall. Aside from one extended break due to an artist missing their set time – and I say ‘set time’ for lols, as Sumfest very much runs on island time – the singers and dancers would change over instantaneously, without a pause. It was a lot to take in, and by 3am I felt like I had sensory overload. There is a reason why most the crowd don’t turn up until after midnight, and that’s because the party runs late – but for sure, it is worth the wait: Lady Saw’s performance at 6am on Friday morning became the talk of Sumfest the next day.
Part 2 of the review with a Friday round-up featuring Common, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal to follow….
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Photos of Common, Kabaka Pyramid and Jesse Royal at Sumfest:
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