Rounding the back ramparts of Bayfront park - the concrete speckled with people decked out in red, yellow, and green - I watched a cop saunter through the crowd. I caught up to him. “Sir,” I said, “I just saw you walking, and it seems you’re just as immersed in the laid back mentality as everybody else.” Under different circumstances - a time and place void of reggae vibes - this may have been considered a boldly spontaneous suggestion. Nevertheless, the time was night and the place was right. The amphitheatre was resonating with a syncopated Jamaican pulse like a seashell echoing the coast, the crashing ocean. I continued with the police officer: "If you don’t mind my asking, is there any reason whatsoever for you to be concerned about security on a night like this?”
“Not at all,” he said, smiling.
I took a deep breath of the sweet air saturated with herbal incense as it swept up the steps and beyond the park’s concrete ramparts. The cop must have seen me savor the festival’s perpetual fragrance in that instant, adding decisively: “I would rather be around a thousand people ‘like this’ than two drunk men in a rowdy bar.” Ultimately, the officer and I agreed with a firm handshake that there’s only one socially acceptable, scientifically legitimate expression to sum up the rush of carefree compassion that classic reggae cultivates:
Capital “G.” Capital “V.” Goodness and Vibe become pronouns when a political, powerful, professional city like Miami assembles its proper, positive, population-based values behind common sounds on common grounds in a cultural communion of music and movement. See, amidst the blitz for glitz and business that capitalism calls cities and cities call civilization, people still live with organic purpose: 1) to feel well, 2) to exist thoroughly, and 3) to express their journey towards peace, Allah, Jah, God, Yaweh, call him/her/it what you want. Yes, Tupac, we are roses growing up in gravel, through the calculated slabs of spaced synthetic bedrock and their occasional fractures, heavy sheets of industry sleeping on us; we’re stuck like pins into the fabric of this earth-ball as if the planet’s a damn voodoo doll, and the politicians have all the needles because they’re busy kneading egos; the real magicians are the musicians who will their homegrown tones, notes, and poems to be known the world over.
Saturday, Twenty November, Two Thousand Ten.
Reggae staples Mixed Culture, Cultura Profetica, Midnite, Steel Pulse, Marcia Griffiths and Bunny Wailer deeply internalize and live alongside the attitudes and beliefs they preach - there’s simply no more poetic justification for the number of people, places, and nations they reach in one festive sitting. Practiced reggae artists (such as those constituting the above groups) get on stage and drop the beat atop your head and it sinks into your chest and you undress your ego and let go, starting with the head, which has to nod because the heart is bobbing up and down, feel it resound, face to the sky, face to the ground, face a manifestation of syncopation, hips mimicking the metronymic sway of the minute hand on a watch’s visage, lyrical bars and lilted guitar measured against an intoxicated bass-line prophet whose booming calls consecrate the blood in everyone’s veins as it circulates vigorously through the arms and through the legs, the body an apostle made of clay, channeling reggae like water in a riverbed.
For the sake of non-profit organizations and the general struggle to sustain service-based initiatives in these modern, money-driven days, I’m glad to announce that Bunny Wailer’s set (especially) exemplified the Voices United mission for art-inspired youth empowerment. The rich resinous rasp of Bunny’s voice did not shout over the heads of children; he did not stand still, imitating an antique’s statuesque accumulation of symbolic value. Instead, Bunny’s mature presence went mobile, wide-eyes riding the amphitheatres amalgamation of nations, hopping (appropriately) like a toddler, a buoy bouncing left-to-right on baritone waves, on Good Vibes.
Bunny Wailer projected his seasoned energy on a level one-and-the-same with the joy-filled days of childhood when places played host to the imagination, lending a musical sense of potential, relentless hope, and implacable elation for our station as Human Beings, as being here now. The emanation of Good Vibes gives rise to selfhood, a status backboned by awareness and ribbed with the confidence to consciously dismiss the ego. So, picture society as a vehicle and put a guy like Bunny Wailer behind the wheel. What do you get? Better yet, where do you go?
I suppose that’s up to you. But the Bayside Rocks Festival was a testament to this metaphorical truth: when reggae drives the machine for an evening in downtown Miami, reaching out to one's neighbor is as simple as rolling down the window.
Sadly, this review ends on a note that sounds a lot like “boo.” With Toots & the Maytals scheduled to steal and seal the show in an epic anchor performance, the obnoxious clock hands obstinately settled in the Far North. Let’s just say that Cinderella had a lot more dancing to do in those glass slippers before the fairy godmother’s spell was lifted at midnight. Or should I say “unplugged”? After no more than ten minutes on stage, Miami residency codes were the constraint that cut the sound. Toots energetically circumnavigated the “equipment moat” that separated him from yearning fans, shaking hands and being essentially jovial.
If it wasn’t for the consistent momentum of the Bayside Rocks lineup, perhaps the seating would have stayed sparsely populated. Of course, it takes but one bass riff, a vocal growl, an off-beat jam, and perhaps a spliff to cause coagulation of the human spirit in which people wave and vibrate together, tethered by similar sentiments like sailors knots, rocking to the music in the balmy weather.