Reggae Fest in Review

After an 11 year hiatus, Tulsa’s original Reggaefest returned with an international lineup. Each day started out slow and hot, but the great music and atmosphere made it well worth the heat.

The festival opened with locals Sam and the Stylees, The Rebellion, and Local Hero. The first of the headliners was Jamaican band The Itals. They really set the mood, taking the music back to its roots. Don Carlos was the final act of the evening. He was an original vocalist for the band Black Uhuru, and had a successful solo career in the 80’s and 90’s. With his backing band providing smooth rhythms, Carlos sung some of his most popular tracks. Even at age 60, he put on the most energetic performance of the weekend.

Between bands, a walk around the grounds revealed more than music. Booths wrapped the festival with t-shirts, Caribbean style food, and ice cream. Festival goers painted pictures at the Siame Foundation booth, a non-profit organization from Tulsa, and kids (and adults alike) escaped the heat in the Veteran’s Park fountains.

Day two began with sunburned patrons braving the heat to dance to locals Frosty and the Janes and Dallas punk ska band Rude Kings. Cas Haley, a former America’s Got Talent runner-up, brought a bluesy sound with a laid back reggae rhythm. By the time North Carolina’s Trevor Hall hit the stage, fans made a small gathering at the railing to hear his smooth and poppy reggae tinged music. The festival shifted back to a more traditional sound with Blue Riddim Band from Kansas City, Missouri. The band has been playing for over 30 years, and was the first American band to play at Jamaica’s legendary Reggae Sunsplash festival. They filled the air with smooth, rootsy reggae sounds. Festival Alumnus English Beat headed by original guitarist and singer Dave Wakeling, drew a huge crowd. They did not disappoint, playing a full set of English Beat, General Public, and Dave Wakeling’s solo material.

It’s good to have one of the area’s most popular events back after over a decade. Even with the 100-degrees-plus temperatures, it was well worth the sweat and sun burn to see some amazing acts and be immersed in multiple cultures at once. Doc James from Local Hero said it best; it wasn’t just 101 degrees, “its 101 reggae degrees.”

-Tip C