Reggae in the Desert
For the last several years, my daughter's boyfriend has been asking me, "Are you going to Reggae in the Desert?" Each time I considered it but I was afraid to brave the heat. This year, I was glad I did. I was not alone as thousands flocked to the 14th Annual Reggae in the Desert, a daylong homage to reggae music, Jamaican and island cultures.
It was a little like St. Patrick's Day. Everyone was Jamaican for a day as Jamaican pride was evident in flags, umbrellas, and assorted apparel. Vendors did brisk business selling assorted reggae, Jamaican and Bob Marley paraphernalia.
Thousands of hearty souls braved the hottest day of the year to date, to dance and sway to the reggae rhythms of some of reggae's finest musicians. Fans of each artist were thrilled and insisted their favorite should have been the headliner.
The crowd built steadily throughout the day as the festival began with DJ Ramma. Locally-formed band, Ludlow took the stage next. Fans were sure to get as close as the chain fence would allow getting a closer view and to feel the rhythms. Sister Nancy (Ophlin Russell-Meyers) followed as the crowd continued to grow. Most of the spaces in the shade began to fill up but that did not stop the hardcore fans from crowding near the fence to be right up on the action.
When Etana took the stage the crowd had grown to several thousand and people were still steadily streaming in. The music provided the background to festival goers as the browsed the apparel vendors. The festival atmosphere included a face painting clown and a dancing wizard.
Stick Figure took the stage with their unique blend of reggae and dub. The crowd continued to grow and became more and more celebratory despite the heat. Excitement reverberated throughout the crowd for Stick Figure's set. The band perfectly timed "Smokin' Love," so that it directly preceded 4:20 p.m. An artist created a painted alongside the stage as the band played.
Anuhea followed Stickman with a softer set of her pop hits. Fans of both Yellowman and Maxi Priest thrilled as they felt either artist could have easily been the headliner. By the time the sun had retreated over the mountains the grass was filled with appreciative reggae fans as JBoog closed out the evening.
There were continual announcements informing the audience of the 100-plus degree temperatures and reminding them to drink plenty of water. Water was for sale at numerous vendor sites for only a dollar. There was also plenty of shade under the trees and near the food booths to accommodate those needing shelter.
In between tight 40-minute sets there was plenty of time to peruse multiple merchandise booths selling all kinds of Jamaican, reggae, and Bob Marley paraphernalia. The food was as big a draw as the musical entertainment. By 3 p.m., the line for grilled, jerk chicken was nearly two blocks long.
Fortunately, there were two jerk vendors. The line for the other was much shorter, but began to quickly grow as well. Other equally mouthwatering offerings were available such as oxtail, beef and chicken kabobs, rice, peas, beans and plantains. In addition, there were plenty of fair favorites such as funnel cakes and ice cold lemonade.
A very tired but very satisfied crowd left the end of the evening. I would not doubt some of them are already anticipating next year's Reggae in the Desert. I know I am.
Reggae in the Desert was held on June 13 at the Clark County Amphitheater, 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy. Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.reggaeinthedesert.com