Rasjohnmon's   Report from the Yard for August 10th

Reggae SumFest


It's about 5 PM when Leroy drops me off at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Center. With most everything in place after night one, all of the crews got to have later call time (and a few hours sleep) but most everyone had arrived already and were setting up for the night's tribute to U-Roy.

I met up with Ralph M. Neuman, Greg's partner in putting this technical extravaganza together. Ralph has been involved with the musiic industry and it's businessaspects since the days when he was hanging out with Berry Gordi when Motown Records was coming together. He is also a major Reggae fan. Neither of us being to anxious to leave a chair when we found one (standing and skanking for 14 hours can tire out your feet!), we sat in the backstage area and talked for an hour or so about concerts, radio, our mutual excitement about the Internet and how happy we both were to a part of this event. Taking the whole thing to the world with feeds of most of the 4 day show via the Internet really had everyone excited. A first for the net and a whole new way to bring Reggae music and this phenomenal group of performers to the world. We are going to be provided with a rough mix of the entire show and should start presenting portions within 2-3 weeks.

Reluctantly, I decided I had better take a walk around and see how all was going. The stage lighting system had been brought up to 100% earlier in the day which will make many more effects possible than were available last night. Our 28 foot boom camera had also arrived and was in place. Although a little tired everyone was feeling great today - all the equipment was working very well and the various technical and festival coordinators had fallen into synch. The slightly stressed environment of yesterday had been replaced by one of relaxed confidence.

Inside the hall (which is actually an enclosed area that looks like an oversized baseball field) the staff is raking and cleaning the field of debris for a clean start a couple of hours from now. Around the entire perimeter of the field, local vendors are setting up for the night ahead in 8 X 10 foot shops. A variety of local restaurants and companies are represented along with dozens of other local craftsmen and cooks. For many of them, like Andrew who I had gotten to know the other day, this was a big entrepreneurial opportunity. The smells of chicken, curry goat and fish being grilled over charcoal fires creates a delicious aroma in the air. Above the shops, Walter's' restaurant and Appleton Rum each have VIP areas that will soon fill up to capacity. Backstage, some the musicians were starting to arrive.

About 7:30 PM the gates opened and the audience began to trickle in. One family was setting up a tent and others were staking their claims using space blankets, air mattresses and lounge chairs. Some of the entrepreneurial spirited local people were selling "Reggae Beds" which are sheets of cardboard to provide a clean space to sit or sleep on later in the night. Space was going to be at a premium tonight with 25,000 people expected to stream through the gates by midnight.

A little lightning threatened on the horizon but a beautiful, cool night with a full moon and star filled sky lay ahead for Reggae Sumfest 95's joyous and high energy dance hall night. With an "on time" start of 8:30 PM, the Ninja Force Band got into a tight groove from the opening notes. With a non-stop stream of super talent each wanting to outdo their brethren. All the back-up bands tonight served up musical dynamite rolling with the flow as each DJ artist played to the charged energy the huge crowd focused on the stage.

With all of their equipment finally in place, the lighting crew took their contribution to a new height with great timing and stunning effects. The boom camera soaring over the crowd and stage made it very clear to performers and audience alike how big the event is that they are all a part of.

Of the shows many highlights, the Dance Hall Divas, Lt. Stichie and Lady San & Papa San seemed to get the highest respect from the crowd, but, there was not one performance that Reggae fans around the world will be disappointed with as international radio and Internet concert specials along with videos and CD's from the event are released over the coming weeks and months.

As the sun rising up behind the stage brought a beautiful new day to Montego Bay, Beenie Man closed the nights musical celebration to the screams of thousands of adoring young female fans. Afterwards the crowd slowly headed for the gates, a tired but very happy group of music lovers.

transmitted from the site 8/11/95 @20:31