I’m always astounded at the unconditional acceptance given in reggae circles here in Brum. Events are culturally diverse and unifying and Reggae City 2015 is a strong example of this. I feel at home here and it’s not just a gig, it’s a celebration of reggae-influenced music across the board from local groups, household names and out-of-town artists. It’s an authentic glimpse into the scene and reminds me that Birmingham is, and always should be, a reggae city.
Pluming smoke in the courtyard, red stripe, jerk chicken, dreadlocks, hundreds of people and good vibes between them all – the aesthetic is perfect. I begin exploring by following muffled bass-throbs into the Oobleck. I throw myself into the depths of 150 people skanking insync to the 2-tone ska Birmingham group The Equators. With a saxophone the size of a 10-year-old, snazzy suits, sunglasses and upbeat-offbeat-feel-good tunes from their Stiff Records heyday starting in 1977 – I’m schooled with some original Birmingham reggae, adopt a permanent smile, and put the Equators down as a band I always must go and see.
The Alfie Birds loft is rammed, the sound is phenomenal, the energy of the people is enthralling, I get caught up in the atmosphere for two hours. It’s all sound system hypnosis, dancehall unity and DJ wizardry – I live for this shit. Creative Hertz’ sound is the fucking bomb – its hi-fidelity or bust. Goosensei, Jam Jah Sound, Positive Vibrations, Lion Art – they’re all hosts with club reggae professionalism firmly locked down. I willingly lose perception of time while Johnny K is downstairs checking out Macka B…
It would be easy to fill a paragraph or two with a bunch of stuff pulled from wikipedia about Macka B’s startlingly illustrious thirty year career, however, the point is what an incredibly good fit he as a Reggae City headliner. Playing to a packed room filled with long term fans and a majority of folk young enough to have been born after his career even started, Macka B’s deft take on reggae is fresh, vibrant and confident. Though he can undoubtedly hold his own as a musical entertainer, what’s particularly impressive is the moral aspect to some of his lyrics. It’s not easy to sing about things like veganism and make it fun, but Macka B can do it with ease. A song like Sex Machine (“She’s more than a sex machine/the woman is a human being”) is a grin inducing dancefloor classic. I’d advise all you festival bookers out there who are preparing to fill next year’s slots to look towards Macka B. Not because he needs you, but because you (and your punters) need him. – Johnny K
“We’ve been coming to Reggae City for years and they finally booked us!” says Spud, frontman for Birmingham ska-punks Lobster. He’s right to be stoked, Lobster deserve recognition as one of the city’s best and most active ska groups. It wouldn’t make much sense to have a reggae/ska/dub festival in Brum without ‘em. From songs about shitty promoters, the surveillance state, and life as an underground band – Lobster are a sincere, road-tested, and awesome party band. Check out their new Lobster Shack event.
Aries – the junglist A-lister is the best solution for any super-hyper rave-head reaching their peak. With special guest MC David Boomah the crowd broadens into mania and it becomes abundantly clear that Reggae City 2015 is an incredible success.
Reggae City will always be welcome here – as a celebration of Birmingham’s musical heritage, a wicked reflection of the contemporary scene and most importantly – as an open musical community that absolutely anyone can be apart of. See you next year, Reggae City.