The 17th Annual Monterey Bay Reggaefest Underwhelms
July 29, 2012
After 17 years, you'd think the Monterey Bay Reggaefest at the Fairgrounds would be at the top of its game. But according to Weekly editors Kera Abraham and Mark C. Anderson, this year's annual event was lackluster overall and attendance was down. But there were bright spots.
KA: The stars didn't align for the Monterey Bay Reggaefest this year. Maybe because we couldn't see the stars at all. A classically Monterey late-July gloom cloaked the Fairgrounds in a decidedly non-Jamaican drear both Friday and Saturday nights.
But then, maybe it was all the competing action this weekend—from Moto GP to Bach Festival to Garlic Festival to Feast of Lanterns—scattering the potential alibis for locals seeking the good kind of trouble.
Maybe it was a lineup that, despite bright spots like Judy Mowatt and Maxi Priest, felt weaker than in years past. Or the mandate to provide two canned goods at the entrance that led to such sparse attendance, particularly on Friday night. The intention of feeding the hungry is noble enough, but when festie-goers are refunded and turned away because they didn't bring beans—and it happened to quite a few people at the gate—one has to wonder what organizers were thinking. How about just donating $1 from every ticket to the food bank?
Anyway, my crew ended up paying less attention to the music than to the vendors, who seemed resigned to slow sales this weekend. Instead we drank tea with the proprietors of the Kashmir jewelry stand, danced with the Pie for the People pizza booth workers and shopped the hell out of the Gypsy-Chic boutique, which stocked some of the nicest organic hippie clothes I've stumbled upon in some time. We admired the lacy pattern of the oak tree branches over the Fairgrounds' little bridged pond while Maxi Priest poured overly sweet reggae syrup on Cat Stevens' "Wild World."
The Friday night headliner was similarly underwhelming, but the afterparty at the Turf Club brought some entertaining freestyle reggae-hop, including one MC with a voice from Kingston and a face from an Irish ghetto.
Luckily reggae is one of them most feel-good music genres out there, and a steady skank kept the chilly air upbeat at the fairgrounds all weekend-- especially with the concentration of irie acts led by Gyptian on Sunday.
MCA: Dancehall-reggae notable Sanchez (pictured above) wears a strikingly cherry red ball cap and matching tie with a white suit. He paces behind the Dizzy Den-adjacent stage. And he's pissed off.
Apparently the sound system on the $20,000-plus stage isn't up to his Jamaican-born snuff. He mutters and sputters, curses and carps, chastises and generally tremors with frustration.
He's supposed to be on stage by now, before at least 200 standing and waving their arms in front of the stage and another few hundred behind them. But he wants the sound just right.
A dreaded Rastafarian standing near the sound decks looks at Sanchez.
"Don't worry about what you don't have," he says in lyrical island English. "Go with what you got."
No fewer than five seconds later Sanchez has signaled his drummer and the group is swinging into soothing strands of R&B that have every VIP behind the stage swaying. Sanchez's voice is a sharp, shiny knife through the overcast night. Not unlike the wider festival, his appearance may not be the smoothest operation Monterey County sees all year—or even on this Friday night—but it happens, giving religious rastas and more versatile music fans alike a deep drink of colorful irie sound.
The dreaded one's advice applies nicely to the 2012 edition of the 17-year one-love inspiration: "Don't worry about what you don't have. Go with what you've got." Because sounds like Sanchez's were pretty damn nice.