Sunday, August 5, 2007

Reggae Rising, Day 2-- Positivity Prevails


Here are the impressions of the second day, as well as general impressions of the Reggae Rising Festival in Humboldt County for two FP representatives:

Like last night, there was a notion of grandiose faux-integrity that seemed to cling to the Dimmick Ranch during the second day of the new Reggae Rising festival. There was also a lot of positivity, as festival director Carol Bruno of People Productions (P.P.) and venue owner Tom Dimmick seemed overwhelmed but satisfied with the results of their efforts when they sat down for a press conference during the second day.

"Everything that we could have possibly dreamed of is happening this weekend," said Bruno.

It's doubtful that she's telling the complete truth in that statement, though. Now a hot topic of Northern California music circles for more than half a year, Bruno and Dimmick's tense legal battle with the Mateel Community Center (M.C.C.), of which Bruno was a former leader, ended with People Productions effectively gaining control of the permit to hold the festival from the Humboldt County Planning Commission and Superior Court in April. Later on, with a 2007 festival in their pockets, Bruno and Dimmick asked Mateel if they would let them use the festival name for $2.4 million over the next 10 years, which Mateel rejected.

That response is quite curious, as Mateel fired People Productions in December last year for essentially wasting too much of their money. M.C.C. executive director Taunya Stapp fired the first shot of the so-called "reggae war" when she made a presentation last November detailing an audit of People Productions financial records and concluded that P.P. business practices that caused an overall loss of more than $200,000 in M.C.C. income from the 2005 and 2006 festivals.

Perhaps Mateel didn't accept the name offer, because it believes that it'll get the festival sometime in the near future. After all, if one were to log on to the organization's website right now, they'd find a section of it is still dedicated to the now-defunct Reggae On The River 2007, abandoned once it became clear that the planning commission was not going to act on the permit issue and a request by Mateel to get an injunction from the Sup. Court failed. But with the precedent that's been set this summer, festivalgoers should expect that this festival isn't going to change hands for a long time.

So, there you have it. This year's fight for the right to hold a festival that's considered to be the finest annual collection of reggae artists in the U.S. left Mateel without a festival and People Productions and Dimmick with a black eye from the local community and weary from the scramble to get artists and vendors on board. But enough of this negative nonsense-- here's the report on the music:

Your intrepid FP reporters got to the festival at 4:00, right as Chirstian rapper Wisdom was finishing up his set with one of his more popular songs, the catchy "Rise Up". The crowd was about as lively as it was ever going to get, with a cluster of 2,000 fans hugging the guard railing, a few thousand more chilling in the shade of a couple 200 square foot umbrellas and other shade structures.

In between Wisdom's set and that of Tanya Stephens, festival MC's would shout out random calls and praises of the festival, which seemingly served to keep those caught stoned in the 80-degree heat from nodding off, and not much else.

When Tanya Stephens did get on stage, she was quite the firecracker. In between songs such as "These Streets", she offered opinions on everything from open and/or theoretically non-existent marriage to the leadership in American government. "Let's hope that we never elect another motherf***er like George Bush," shouted Stephens, who said at a backstage conference that she means everything she says onstage. "I'm not schizophrenic. Rather than bringing the personality of a 'star' into my everyday persona, as other singers do, I'm more about bringing my regular self onstage. I'm not much different on the stage than off." In response to Stephens' verbal aggression, the crowd cheered as fiercely as it ever would that day.

The reception of senior players Sly & Robbie later on that night could compete with that of Stephens, however. The duo of Lowell "Sly" Dunbar's effect-laden drumset went along perfectly with bassist Robbie Shakespeare's agile phrasings to get a solid beat that slid from one dub to another, all under a reliable horn section, guitars, and singer Horace Andy's light falsetto stylings.

At times throughout the two days, especially during Sly & Robbie and Friday night closer Heavyweight Dub Champion's set, the sound team could have been a little bit more meticulous in their establishment of the sound mix coming through the festival's speakers, but the vibes still came through crystal clear.

On another note, there should also be a limit on how many times the MC's, singers, and other bandmates at the festival, can put the word "rising" in the same sentence as "freedom", "revolution", or "reggae" (except when saying the festival's name, of course) at future festivals. The extent to which four aforementioned words were used most likely gave some at the festival a headache and some a bad trip.

Although there wasn't much visible or audible enthusiasm from the crowd during Friday or Saturday, that doesn't mean the masses weren't happy. In addition, an outdoor reggae festival in the mountains of Northern California simply cannot and should not be put under the same critical lens as, say, a jazz festival at Lincoln Center, because the audience more often than not just wants to hear something that makes the great vibes they're already feeling (due to quality time spent with friends and family, the nice weather and scenery, controlled substances or a little bit of everything) even better.

In general, a festival such as Reggae Rising is created for the express purpose of rest, relaxation, and reggae coming together to create a certain thing the French call "Good Times," with no one ingredient more integral to the recipe than any other; this year's Reggae Rising, in its programming and now-controversial choice of location, struck that balance perfectly.

-- Ross Moody And Zach Rehm

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would have been nice if you hadn't drank the koolaid at the festival guys.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

You should go do your homework. Simply passing on the spin and hype without fact checking is very corporate of you. Anti-Reggae in my view. This is a defamatory posting regarding the Mateel's actions and the situation that brought about those actions. This dispute has gone through trial and there are now transcripts that can be reviewed for the truth to what brought about the situation.