I’m a classically-trained pianist with a master’s degree in Baroque Art History, not a reforming hippy who likes to blow weed to remember the good old days. So when I tell you that this year’s People’s Festival, saluting Bob Marley (a former Wilmingtonian by the way), will appeal to even conservative musical tastes you can believe it. After all, reggae swept the country earlier this year when I’m Yours by Jason Mraz shot to the top of the family radio charts (i.e. WJBR) for weeks and weeks.
The lineup for the 16th annual People’s Festival in Tubman-Garrett Park on the beautiful Christina Riverfront is sensational! And it’s guaranteed to attract music lovers from all over the four-state region to downtown Wilmington! But to put you in the mood, before you read any further activate the video at the bottom of the page and turn up the volume……..Ok, now you can read on!
If you loved Bob Marley when you were young, you’ll enjoy Taj Weeks, as well. The biggest difference is Taj has a bit higher and more delicate voice than Marley. And you get the sense that he is perhaps a bit more intense (but who isn’t!). But the similarities are enough that you really feel like you’re back in the golden age of reggae, especially with his rendition of “Hollow Display.”
King Chango combines light rap with Latin and island rhythms performed by lively musicians in wild costumes. But don’t worry, they’re not a group of KISS wanna be’s, who would just as soon knock you down as sing to you. King Chango’s energy and drive is contagious and they will appeal to a broad audience of music lovers.
I really like the Skatalites. Like King Chango, their roots seem more with ska than in the laid back moods of reggae, but their music is definitely “the peoples” music. In fact, the Skatalites seem determined to get the audience involved as often as possible.
The Bullbuckers will probably appeal more to hard rockers, I suspect. The rhythms are vintage Jamaican but the sound – especially the distorted guitar – reminds me of heavy metal. But they don’t blow you away with volume, so the fusion is not only enjoyable but interesting.
Midnight is perhaps the most authentic of all the reggae groups at the festival. You simply will not be able to keep your body from undulating back and forth and side to side – all at the same time – as the music echoes through the crowd.
But if you only have time to attend one performance, make it 12:00 noon when the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble will lead a “drum circle.” It’s more than just a musical experience, it’s an international learning experience. The rhythms are infectious and the dancers are full of energy. The ensemble is a phenomenon and the drum circle well worth the price of admission all by itself. So bring your personal percussion piece and join in the fun!
Speaking of admission, kids under 10 are free at the People’s Festival. Adult admission is $15 if you purchase tickets in advance and $20 at the gate (check out the Festival website for rules and conditions). The Festival will be held from noon to 10:00 pm on Saturday, July 31. There will be two stages with live music all day, as well as a host of vendors with exotic foods and island accessories.
Here’s the tentative performance schedule, but be sure to check out the People’s Festival website for any late breaking news:
12:00-1:00 Drum Circle led by Universal Drum and Dance Ensemble
1:00-1:50 Spokey Speaky – One Love Stage
1:50-2:35 Bullbuckers – Uprising Stage
2:35-3:35 King Chango – One Love Stage
3:35-4:20 Welfare Poets – Uprising Stage
4:20-5:20 Kirk Joseph – One Love Stage
5:25-6:10 Xande Cruz – Uprising Stage
6:20-7:30 Skatalites – One Love Stage
7:30-8:30 Taj Weekes and Adowa – Uprising Stage
8:45-10:15 Midnite – One Love Stage
TravelTip: Tubman-Garret Park is on the new Christina Riverwalk next to Wilmington’s Amtrak Station (the 7th busiest passenger rail station in America). There is lots of free parking at the Chase Center on the Riverfront less than a 15-minute walk from the Park, as well as two pay lots right across the street from the park.