On August 22nd, Red Rocks hosted their 28th Reggae on the Rocks event, which is arguably the most revered Reggae showcase in the world. There were many talented musicians that spread all over the Reggae spectrum, ranging from future roots, roots reggae, dub and ska. Judge Roughneck opened the festival around 12pm, followed by Mighty Diamonds, John Brown’s Body, Wailing Souls, Third World and Pepper. Sublime with Rome finished off the night with some awesome throwbacks and a bunch of new tunes, ending around midnight.
Unfortunately, due to wild fires all along the West Coast, the Rocks were slightly smoky. A hazy sheet of smoke completely covered the Front Range of Colorado. It wasn’t difficult to breathe for the average person, but I truly wish that the famous view of the surrounding area could have been more visible, especially for the out-of-towners.
There were people from everywhere: California, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont… you name it. Most of the attendees seemed to range around their 20s and 30s, and most of them were in large groups. There weren’t many people 50+; almost all who were had beautiful, long dreads and sported hats made for their type of hair. They were definitely the old-heads of the American reggae scene. I was shocked to see a small population of families with young children at the Rocks. It seems inappropriate to expose a child to a place where many people are drinking, smoking and maybe even experimenting with drugs. Overall, the crowd was very peaceful - especially for 8,000 people situating in one location. Not one fight broke out while I was there. The event didn’t sell out, which was a good thing in my opinion since there were already a ton of people there. This allowed tons of room for everyone to dance, sway and head bob, a favorite move amongst reggae lovers.
But lets talk music. John Brown’s Body was the first group to get a good amount of people out of their seats; probably around 1/5 of the crowd was up and shaking it. Their set consisted of roots reggae and future roots songs. Future roots seems to have a slower beat that normal roots songs with robotic or galactic voice sound-effect. When JBB started playing “Step Inside,” a huge hit from their album Kings and Queens, a lot more people stood up and got their groove on. I was impressed by JBB’s brass instrument set up. They had a trombonist, trumpeter AND saxophonist…very impressive. Next, The Wailing Souls hit the stage. Although they had no crazy brass section, TWS did have an awesome drum set up: a full drum set and some really nice bongos. Want to talk about authenticity? TWS are from Jamaica and their group dates back to the 1960s. When I closed my eyes, their traditional reggae sounds and thick Jamaican accents transported me to a tropical island. After TWS, Third World came on, walking casually and cheesing it hard at the crowd. I expected Third World to have a traditional reggae sound since I never heard of them before, but I was completely wrong. Third World mashed up funk, disco and Reggae, a mixture of genres I never knew existed. At this point, almost the entire crowd was up and shaking it. People in Colorado love funk. Pepper came next, just as it got dark. With my experience, people seem to dance harder when there’s no light; everyone was shaking it up. Pepper has a unique style because sometimes they sound like boy-band meets ska and other times, a pure reggae roots group. Everyone at Red Rocks lost it when they played “No Control.” From then on, Red Rocks was a massive, intense dance floor. Last, but certainly not least, Sublime with Rome made it to the stage. They started off their set with “Date Rape,” one of their most popular songs. It’s crazy how many major hits this group has. They’re one of the most fun groups I’ve seen because a huge chunk of their songs start off slow with singing and then speed up; it’s just too fun to sing along and sway and dance harder as the beat quickens. Sublime with Rome ended with their number #1 hit, “Santeria,” a song that everyone knows, even if they don’t know who sings it. At this point, everyone was belting the words and grooving their hips to the medium-slow beat. A sense of community really flowed through the Rocks at this point.
I can’t imagine the excitement each group must have felt playing at Red Rocks, even though most of them had played there before. It truly is the most beautiful music venue in the world. After each set, the bands spoke so appreciatively to the crowd. Like the good vibes their music was sending us weren’t enough? Shout out to the people who were at Red Rocks from 12am to 12pm, that’s a lot of dedication! And if you didn’t make it out to Reggae on the Rocks this year, I highly suggest making the trek next year to check out the most prime groups in the Reggae scene.
Written By Samantha Elkan