One of the greatest couple days I’ve had recently was the weekend of June 17th, when I attended the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (SNWMF) at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds. There were so many incredible acts to see in so little time, I will stick to the highlights of the trip and of what I actually did see. The festival itself was amazingly organized, even though my group came late, we still got a great camping spot. They also had the best wristbands ever; cloth, so they were hard to duplicate and were incredibly comfortable. Our campsite was pretty close to the Valley (Main) Stage so we got to hear some awesome reggae from the Reggae Angels and Tribal Seeds, great music to set up camp to.
We later went to the stage to see Collie Buddz & The New Kingston Band, the band was great, as well as the dancers. Collie Buddz, on the other hand, had a weaker stage presence compared to many other artists at SNWMF. All of his singing was great, but it felt like I could have been happy just listening to the album. Started out seeing Rebelution afterwards, which rocked, but didn’t want to miss the legend, Pablo Moses on the Village (Small) Stage. Since his first album in 1975, Pablo Moses has been wowing crowds with awesome reggae and Friday night was no different. Afterwards, we went to the Dancehall and saw Jah Love Musik with Briggy spin some amazing dub till the wee hours, went back to camp and passed out.
The next day I was exhausted, the morning was insanely hot compared to the semi-warm mornings in San Francisco. I finally made it to the cold showers and got some energy back, it wasn’t until I saw Horace Andy on the Valley Stage, that I got my second wind and started the dancing back up. A legend is his own right, Horace Andy put on a fascinating show, it’s hard to imagine someone who’s been around for so long to have such a well of great stage presence. Up next on the Valley Stage was Midnite, a Reggae staple for many years and one of my favorite Neo-Roots bands. After Midnite was The Jolly Boys, a band that plays the original Jamaican slave music, Mento, which predates Ska and Reggae. This sixty year old band, amazingly has most of it’s first members and played an incredible rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, which goes to show how much they appreciate music of all decades.
Afterwards, Toots & The Maytals took to the stage. Rocking since 1963, Toots & The Maytals have been heralded as one of the greatest Ska bands of all time. Having some Gospel influence and brief incarceration, they have been also one of the most controversial. The hit song “54-46 (That’s My Number)” immortalized the prison sentence, and put them on the mainstream map. With “Monkey Man” they realized international acclaim. They also won a Grammy in 2005 for True Love and a nomination in 2008 for Light Your Light. Up next on the Valley Stage and the headliners for the night were Steel Pulse. Since 1975, Steel Pulse (from the UK) has been a true Roots Reggae band and possibly my all time favorite. When they were initially introduced, they gained popularity immediately in Jamaica, but they were refused booking in neighboring islands such as the Caribbean and the Midlands, because of their Rastafarian beliefs. Eventually Steel Pulse received international stardom and created 13 hit albums, one of them, Babylon the Bandit, earned them a Grammy for best Reggae band in 1986. Steel Pulse’s set at SNWMF was full of great songs, old and new, all amazing. Off to the Dancehall afterwards for more beats from Stone Love w/ Jah9, then back to camp.
On Sunday, it was another lazy morning. I had to pack up my stuff and get ready to head back to the rat race, a downside of working full time. I did get a chance to catch one of my favorite dub bands, DubSkin for the opening part of their set, unfortunately one of the guys collapsed in a seizure, but it was great while it lasted. The word is he is doing fine and they will continue their summer tour. The next and final act I saw at SNWMF was Vusi Mahlasela. A great South African activist and songwriter, he had a great and relaxing acoustic set. A perfect end to my weekend.
Although I experienced a lot at SNWMF, I pretty much just scratched the surface. There was a huge organic food court, from which I had amazing Jamaican Jerk chicken, NY style pizza, Island style burgers, and awesome crepes. There were also Yoga and Dance classes, random drum performances as well as open drum circles, and a ton of activities for the kids. The Dancehall was always bumping too from Dancehall (music) to Dub to Dub-Step, they had everything and went past 2am every night. I did miss out on President Brown, Anthony B, and Ozomatli, but I had seen them at previous festivals. It’s safe to say that the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival has got to be one of the top three festivals I’ve been to.