Reggae Rise Up Maryland Day 2

Have you ever had an experience that after you go to bed and wake up in the morning, you actually wonder…  did that really happen?  Did Stick Figure really Set the World on Fire last night?  Did they really cover Sublime with the Sublime sun beaming on the stage behind them?  Did they really mix in some EDM at the end of their set?  After verifying with others, the answer was a resounding yes and with that, we head back to Covington Park for Day 2 of Reggae Rise Up Maryland Edition.

Leading off the day on the Vibe stage from Massachusetts was Crooked Coast.  If you came into day two a little groggy, Crooked Coast got you out of that state as they hit hard from the beginning with their high energy and hardest sound of the festival so far.  It’s not often that the drummer steals the show, but Shaqed Druyan was on fire with so much charisma and skill, especially on some of the punk-inspired songs.  The early crowd seemed to enjoy the mix of sounds but was evident that the song Go Slow was a pleaser as the crowd helped belt out the lyrics.

Another band combining the likes of punk, ska, and reggae kicked off the Rise Up stage – FUBAR.  The Pennsylvania native FUBAR sounded really tight together. With 3 albums under their belt, you could tell they put some time in on stage as their sound and energy gelled really well together.  Andrew (Gingy) Hall, of The Harbor Boys, was on stage capturing their energy not as a bassist, but as a fan and videographer which only increased the energy of FUBAR’s set.

The surprise of the weekend for me, up to this point was about to hit the Vibe stage. The band Cydeways somehow flew under my reggae-loving ears’ radar, as I had never heard of them.  That was about to change and I’m sure glad it did – just as just Dale and the ZDubs made my playlists last year, Cydeways has been full blast since I heard them own their set.  Their blend of sounds is evident in their song, Shadows, which blends almost a Dirty Heads meets Stick Figure sound, and I ain’t mad about that at all.  It was with Shadows that they closed out their set, and by this time they had secured me as a new fan of their music.

If you don’t already have a huge smile on your face by this time in the day’s festival, the next artists up on the Rise Up stage will most certainly bring that out of you.  Kbong and Johnny Cosmic take the stage with smiles and energy that are infectious.  In case you are keeping count, in the 2 days of the festival this is at least Kbong’s fourth time on stage, and both Kbong and Johnny Cosmic’s second full set in less than 24 hours.  That, however, does not slow them down from putting on an outstanding performance that peaks with the song Smiles on Faces, and if you weren’t before you absolutely are now.

Out of Bermuda and taking the Rise Up platform next was none other than Collie Buddz.  Ever not realize how much you like an artist until you hear them play live and then you sing along to nearly every song?… yeah, me either.  Collie, dressed head to toe in his standard denim, must have been melting up on stage, but that didn’t stop him from belting out the songs that so many in the crowd were singing along word for word too.  Even when there was a bit of a technical issue with the sound, Collie kept going, dancing and singing as if nothing was wrong.  Come Around, Tomorrow’s Another Day, Smokin’ Love, and Blind to You were all absolute bangers.  This was a far different crowd experience than the first time I saw Collie Buddz play live at a small venue in State College, PA with about 25 people in attendance – this time, as I stood on the photo pit platform to look out at the crowd, I would estimate an easy 10,000 people were dancing and singing along to his every word.  Way to put in that work Collie.

One band on day 2 that I was most curious to see and hear live was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and apparently, I was not the only one.  As soon as Collie was finished on the Rise Up stage, there was a rush to get into position to see this pioneering hip-hop band from the early 90’s with their smooth layered sound.  I knew a couple of their songs going into the festival, but that was only limited to what I could remember from 2 decades earlier.  I was surprised at how well they still sounded and could see why their first 2 albums were such a hit back in the day.  I really enjoyed listening to the songs I did not know and watching them have fun on stage.  However, when they ended their set with the song Crossroads, it had many in the crowd not only singing but reflecting as the song and message has stood the test of time and is just as relevant today as ever.

A late addition to the festival, but one that had many ticket holders excited about was Citizen Cope.  While Cope’s style of music isn’t exactly reggae – he is more of a soulful, folk, and blues kind of, rock his vibe certainly fit in with the day’s dynamic lineup.  From the moment he hit the stage with his hypnotizing song,  Let the Drummer Kick you could tell we were in for a special performance.  The more songs he performed the more I grew to appreciate the well-rounded musician he is.  When he performed Sideways, the emotion in his voice gripped every heart in attendance and made many of us new fans craving more of his unique sound.

Closing out the Vibe stage on day 2 was The Movement.  The Movement is a staple on any reggae festival and they are the second headliner on day 2 for a reason.  While the band has evolved over the last 20 years their sound only continues to improve and find more and more listeners.  Lead by Josh Swain singing and playing lead guitar the band opened with Always, which got the crowd going early, and by the time they played Take Me to the Ocean, the crowd was in the palm of their hands dancing, singing and echoing Josh’s words.  The Movement’s set hit a high when they played Habit, then finished off with Siren and Break complete with pyrotechnics to light up the night sky.

At long last, the moment that we had all been waiting for on the Rise Up stage, the one and only Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley.  After an intro, Damian starts off his set with Nail Pon Cross, and the crowd is swaying and bobbing their heads immediately.  The crowd is electric through several songs, then they here the familiar sound of the saxophone from Beautiful, off of Damian’s 2005 album, Welcome to Jamrock (thankfully not the last song we will here from this groundbreaking album).   A few songs later, Jr. Gong goes into the song Medication, but not after giving a little speech about what his medication is and what it means to him this gets a great reaction from the crowd and they sing along to the song word for word.  The crowd is riding high when and image of Damian’s father appears on stage and the rhythm of Get Up, Stand Up starts to penetrate Swann Park and everyone sings in unison (all except for one guy close by that can’t stop saying, “holy sh!t, holy sh!t, holy sh!t”).  This energy continues as Marley continues to slice through his set with the voice of a true legend.  He breaks back into the Welcome to Jamrock album with the song Road to Zion, which was co-written with Nas.  The night continued to only get better and better as Road to Zion was followed by the famous words, “Out in the street they call it murder,” and Damian ripped into Jamrock.  Damian ended his set with songs written by his father, and with his father on the screen behind him he belted out War/No More Trouble, before ending the night and sending the electric crowd off with Could You Be Loved?  While making my way back to our car I heard one person express that Damian’s performance was a religious experience for them.  I don’t know about that, but I do wonder if Bob might have been looking down and dancing to the sound of his son with that familiar smile of his.

Matt Grube
Todd Judd
Iron Lion Images by Todd M Judd Photography

Reggae Rise Up Maryland Festival 2023