Reggae Geel 2017 – Love, Unity & Good Vibes!
For two days each year, the town of Geel (in English Yellow) turns into Red, Gold & Green as ten thousands of people from around the world make the annual pilgrimage to Europe’s oldest reggae festival to ‘catch a vibe’ – the festival’s theme. This year the idyllic setting of Reggae Geel, heading for its 40th anniversary next year (which promises to be a very special edition), hosted a powerhouse line up for an extravaganza played out on fives stages.
“LOVE, UNITY & GOOD VIBES!”
Including the names of veterans like Glen Washington, Capleton aka King Shango, Maxi Priest, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru (Michael Rose & Duckie Simpson), The Silvertones (Keith Coley, Joel ‘Kush’ Brown & Anthony Fuertado), The Heptones (Earl Morgan, Robert Dacres & Carlton Scarlett); upcoming & current stars such as Christopher Martin, Chronixx, Jesse Royal, Iba Mahr and Jah Cure; young budding talents like Hempress Sativa, Runkus, Royal Blu, Raging Fyah, EarthKry, Poetic Pilgrimage and Blvk H3ro; dancehall rulers Bay-C, Aidonia, Tanto Blacks, Ricky Trooper, and Soul Supreme plus roots & dub luminaries such as Gussie P, Channel One UK, Blood Shanti, Word Sound & Power, Mafia & Fluxy and Jah Youth, the line up definitely merited an R rating.
Needless to say that it’s a ‘mission impossible’ to attend all performances, so the best way to explore what’s happening at the festival is to create your own routemap, which takes you along the various stages based on a list of ‘must sees’, ‘wanna sees’, ‘possible sees’, and ‘avoid to sees’. On Friday evening our planned route included the names of EartKry (unfortunately missed due to traffic jams and standing in a long row to pick up the event’s wristbands), Iba Mahr (not really striking a chord with us), Raging Fyah (delivering a solid performance, showcasing that they’ve notably grown due to doing a growing amount of shows and tours), Chronixx (a decent, but a bit too licked set compared with his previous performance at Reggae Geel) and Hempress Sativa (a true revelation).
The Yard stage has established itself as the place to be for those looking for interesting lesser known acts and aspiring newcomers in the reggae arena (and beyond). Last year the fantastic Hempolics delivered one of the best and most appealing shows of the 38th edition, while two years before No-Maddz impressed with a remarkable performance. And now it was Hempress Sativa who totally rocked the sing along crowd in front of her. For those who attended her performance, Hempress Sativa (expertly backed by her band with bassie Devon Bradshaw and guitarist Ian ‘Beezy’ Coleman) was the brightest shining star of the first festival day.
The first artist to check on day two, a day of sun and rain showers, was the long awaited Glen Washington. He treated the enthusiastic crowd to a thoroughly entertaining set, delivering hit after hit across mostly instantly recognizable classic riddims. Later on he stated that he could have come up with even more hit tunes if he would have been granted more time on stage. Tessanne Chin, the 2015 Voice USA winner, in the line up of Reggae Geel shows that the festival also tries to reach a broader audience, which actually also goes for pop reggae star Maxi Priest. Next on our checklist were Mafia & Fluxy in the 18″ Corner. Remembering them backing Michael Rose and a veteran package including a.o. Linval Thompson, Triston Palma and Cornell Campbell on the main stage, it was something else – but nevertheless a good thing – to see them playing their own sound’s dubplates.
After all those years, Steel Pulse finally debuted at Reggae Geel. The Grammy award-winning reggae band with founding members David ‘Dread’ Hinds and Selwyn ‘Bumbo’ Brown didn’t disappoint – due to returning to the essence of their roots sound. They put a lot of energy in their set and got a lot of approval from the crowd with songs such as “Steppin’ Out”, “Macka Splaff”, “Bodyguard”, and “Drug Squad”.
After a meet & greet moment with Steel Pulse’s Sidney Mills and then David ‘Jah D’ Goldfine of Zion I Kings, it was time to head for the Skaville Circus to see The Silvertones. Backed by the great playing Six Nation band from Germany, the still energetic trio got the thrilled crowd in a frenzy. Older folks in the audience relived the music of their youth and youngsters shook a leg to songs such as “Gun Fever”, the classic Studio One hit “Smile”, the roots tune “Sufferers Child”, and soul covers like “In The Midnight Hour” and “Baby love”, recorded before they were born.
As every year, Reggae Geel had its strong and weak moments. Some artists and sounds fully lived up to expectations, while others couldn’t impress at all. A really positive thing that needs to be pointed out is the return to form of the Bounce, the place to be for fans of sounds & dancehall artists. It turned out to be a real good move to engage Herb-A-Lize It and Tommy Milfnikka (formerly known as Budda of Civalizee Foundation) as hosts of this stage. Also noteworthy was the improvement of the sound in the Yard as well as the new set up of that festival area. Last but least the work of the eco teams to keep the festival grounds as clean as possible was more noticed than before, which is a good thing.