Reggae Rise Up brings great line-up and island vibe to St. Petersburg

By Anita Stewart, Journalist and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer–Rock At Night Tampa

Venue: Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida–March 18, 2018

Reggae Rise Up rolled into town with amazing vibes and hippie clothes, bohemian attendees decked out in everything you can imagine–the guy in an orange squid costume was most memorable! The motifs of the festival are an octopus and bubbles.  The colors were bright blue that mimicked the sky with happy accents of sunshiny yellow–just like the day! There was even an inflatable “octopus” disco where tunes were being spun all day long. On the lawns along the water, people old, young, families with children, dressed up, dressed down and even one daring lady with nothing but pasties and a sarong, were laying on blankets, on hammocks between trees, or under make-shift tents. And the weather was perfect!

This is the fourth year for this festival at Vinoy Park located near downtown St. Petersburg and the first time it was made into a three-day event which promoted an amazing lineup! The festival was created by Vaughn Carrick of Salt Lake City who owns Live Nite Events and plans on making this “THE Reggae Event” on this coast, an eastern echo of the well-known California Roots Festival. Read more about the history of Reggae Rise Up HERE.

The crowds were immense with vendors of beachy clothing, accessories, jewelry and all kinds of food—vegan, healthy, and ethnic, such as African, Jamaican, and Thai.  Two stages that were on opposite ends of the Vinoy Park had continuous acts performing throughout the day and evening, without missing  beat.

Rock at Night was only able to attend on Sunday, March 18th because of prior commitments on the first two days of the festival. We planned our time at the fest around the bands performing on the last day; we checked out Raging Fyah at the Vibe stage and the Expendables, Nahko and Medicine for the People and Soja at the Rise Up (main) stage. Our only complaint was not being able to find a timed schedule of the bands on the website before we arrived.

Raging Fyah

Raging Fyah graced the Vibe stage at around 5:30 p.m. and played old school reggae aka as roots rock reggae just the way we like it! A five-piece band from Kingston, Jamaica, which seem to be touring everywhere now, was the band to see! They gained a recent Grammy nomination in the Reggae category for their last album, Everlasting in 2016. “The challenging lyrics on Everlasting challenged what we were able to do as musicians,” says Demar Gayle (keyboards). “Musically, we kept our roots but went way beyond them because there is not just one shape to fyah, it takes on different forms.” The crowd really got into the music as heads gently bopped and spliffs were passed from person-to-person. Everybody was feeling very “island-like”!

The Expendables

The Expendables were on the Rise Up stage late afternoon and they were the band rocking the crowd when we walked in. They are kinda’ like California surf music meets the English Beat, as their tunes and harmonies floated between reggae, ska and the happy feels that comes from relentless California vibes. The crowd loved them! Five studio albums and 13 years after forming, the band is still touring and gaining new fans! Check out the video of their rain, lightning and thunder filled performance at Red Rocks on their website–now that is all about devotion to the music!

Nahko and Medicine for the People

Nahko and Medicine for the People were who many in the crowd were waiting for. Rock at Night has covered this band twice before (click HERE and HERE for the previous stories). Complete with signs saying “I Believe in the Good Things Coming” (from “Black As Night”) and even more lyrics from Nahko’s older songs, the crowd was squished into the front and center stage area and against the barricades in anticipation of this performance. Nahko and his band delivered a short, hour long but powerfully charged and emotional set, singing the new songs from the latest album “My Name is Bear.” The crowd swayed, danced and sang along to every single one! “Indian Reservation” by Paul Revere and the Raiders was an incredible cover and the song is over 50 years old! Nahko and the band made it their own. “Dragonfly,” “Love Letters to God” and “Aloha Ke Akua” were standouts!

It was definitely night by the time SOJA, the two-time GRAMMY-nominated eight-piece band, hit the stage, playing both classic hits and songs from their latest CD Poetry in Motion. The crowd was singing along, dancing, and swaying along with this American reggae band, which was formed in Washington D.C. two decades ago.  There was plenty of smoke on stage, colored lights, a prancing horn section, and plenty of reggae fun (not to mention a strong aroma of ganga, coming from the audience).

Overall, the Reggae Rise Up garnered another successful year of relaxed reggae fun on a weekend with fantastic weather and a huge welcoming crowd of reggae revelers.

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