Ithaca Reggae Fest started in 2017 and had a nice three-year run until Covid hit. It was back this year with a crowd of 500 on Friday for the free performance of Mad Professor and 2500+ on Saturday. Such an amazing setting at Stewart Park in Ithaca, right at the end of Cayuga Lake. It was a great crowd, so many ready for Ithaca to host a reggae festival again! I was unable to make Friday’s performance with Mad Professor, spinning his Lee “Scratch” Perry tribute, but was told he was amazing!
Saturday started off with yoga, breakfast & tea, a Chi-Gong water ceremony, and meditation followed by the Gayogoho: No cultural celebration. It was a nice relaxing morning, preparing the crowd for the music and fun ahead. They also had a freestyle skateboarding championship going on throughout the day, really cool watching these skaters of all ages go at it. The Far East, from Brooklyn, started off the performances with their rub a dub, lovers rock, and classic dancehall. Next up was Otha Day and his community drum circle, having members of the crowd join him on stage. His belief is that rhythm has the power to build community, promote well-being and create joy.
Root Shock, hailing from Syracuse, was next up bringing their reggae vibes to the stage. Between the amazing vocals of Jessica Brown and Phil Grajko and the rest of the band, their reggae sound goes from roots to dancehall to heavy dub to ska to funk. Coney Island-born JohnnyGo Figure hit the stage with his vintage dancehall style. As he worked his way through his songs, you would almost think he was a dancehall artist from the 70s or 80s with his style. A nice sound and some very good lyrics.
Sim Redmond Band
Sim Redmond Band, based in Ithaca, was on next bringing their progressive sound of roots rock with an African vibe. Their music hits on so many different styles with a reggae vibe, progressive is the only word to describe them. As the day was going on, the crowd was growing and they really enjoyed Sim Redmond Band. Another Ithaca-based band was up next, Thousands Of One. They had the crowd bouncing to their funky, rock, hip-hop, reggae, and soul sound. Another group the crowd loved with their multiple-styled music that could blow the roof off the stage. Their saxophonist was simply amazing!
Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica Kabaka Pyramid hit the stage. This was my favorite performance of the day, he brought his unique style of reggae with his hip-hop lyricism about unity and positive messages to the stage and wowed the crowd. He started off with many of his popular songs, but at first, was kind of chill and mellow, and so was the crowd. But Kabaka and his band, The Bebble Rockers, started to pick up the energy as they flowed through more songs, bringing the crowd with them. He then went into some old-school reggae songs, songs that influenced him early on, but what hit me the most is when he went into Buju Banton’s Driver! Chills!
A few more songs and his time was up, but he did not want to leave the stage, and the crowd didn’t want him to leave either. He finally finished off the performance with Well Done, which was very fitting!
Following Kabaka, which is no easy task, was Mosaic Foundation. Based out of the Finger Lakes region, they have members from Ghana, Hong Kong, and Jamaica. They have a classic reggae sound with a modern message and really killed it on stage. Great rhythms, beats, and lyrics had the crowd dancing and feeling the energy. They truly brought unity and love to the stage.
10 Ft Ganja Plant
And last up was the headliner of the event, 10 Ft Ganja Plant mixed by producer/engineer Scientist. This was their first live performance in a few years and they did not disappoint. Amazing throwback roots reggae and dub from this band had the crowd vibing the rest of the night. As they went from song to song, the crowds’ energy kept growing with the band’s energy taking us through a history of their music. It was a great way to finish off the night and finish off this festival. Such a great, fun day, mixing in a great atmosphere, food (Caribbean Patty World was my favorite), music, beer from Ithaca Beer, yoga, music, art, meditation, music, skateboarding, great vibes and so much more. I will make sure to hit the Ithaca Reggae Fest next year.