Nine Mile Music Festival
With Ms. Lauryn Hill, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley and others
Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds, Miami
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Better Than: Staying home, eating discounted Valentine's chocolates while listening to "One Love" over and over again.
After last year's Nine Mile Music Festival earned complaints for making a mess of Virginia Key Beach, this year's edition was held in a less ecologically sensitive site, the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds.
If the home of the Dade County Youth Fair hasn't been harmed by the toxic oils used to deep fry oreos, than the ashes of smoked marijuana and remnants from conch salad should not harm the premises.
On Saturday, from noon to midnight, those grounds were packed with a peaceful and festive audience for the 21st annual Nine Mile Music Festival.
Commonly known for years as the Bob Marley fest, founded by the reggae legend's mother, Cedella Marley Booker, the yearly celebration has preserved its original spirit (in spite of the name and location change), helping the hungry by requiring attendees to bring a mandatory donation of canned goods. And of course, remembering Bob Marley, whose visage was everywhere, from t-shirts worn by audience members to towels and hats sold at merch booths. Most importantly, his music was omnipresent.
The Nine Mile 2014 co-headliners were three of his sons Stephen, Damian, and Julian Marley who did their father's name proud, even if their set barely touched forty minutes in length.
The three brothers bounced on the stage, rocking impressive dreadlocks, taking turns hollering and preaching to the crowd: Julian had his chance with "Boom Draw," Stephen and Damian gave us "We Are Soldiers."
The stage was filled with a backing band and singers in a constant state of motion in front of a screen projection of a lion's fearsome face. The crowd roared louder than any jungle animal when the Marley brothers performed versions of their father's songs, "The Heathen" and "Get Up Stand Up."
Though Stephen, Damian, and Julian's time on stage was cut short due to a firm 11 p.m. curfew, the most famous living Marley relation preceded them with a full, blistering set.
Ms. Lauryn Hill, the one-time Fugee, one-time costar of Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, five-time Grammy-winner, and mother of five children with another of Bob's sons, Rohan Marley, reminded us though she might not ever record another album, her live performances are hurricane-level forces of nature.
Supported by keyboards, guitar, bass, bongos, a drum set, a DJ, and three backing singers, Hill showed that she still had the deft touch to merge soul music with hip-hop. She was able to push her voice toward outer octaves on "Everything Is Everything" and even displayed the dexterity to spit lyrics at rapid-fire speed on the Fugees' "Fu-Gee-La." But those weren't the only two genres she played with.
Hill's set began with a dancehall version of her most famous song, the Fugees cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing me Softly." (Those who preferred a more conservative rendition of the song didn't need to complain too loudly, because later in the set, she sang the song as it was recorded for The Score.)
Even rock 'n' roll was represented with a Clash-esque guitar solo during "How Many Mics." And of course, reggae was in the house, as she covered classics by the grandfather of her children with "Jammin'" and "Zimbabwe."
The success of Nine Mile 2014 was helped considerably by the spectacular weather, as crisp as it gets in Miami. The crowds were able to hula hoop and smoke out under a gentle sun and an almost chilly moon. There was a vast expanse between the main and supporting stages, filled with food vendors selling oxtail and other Jamaican cuisine.
Hopefully, there will be no complaints from carnies setting up the Double Looper roller coaster that the place is too messy.
Ms. Lauryn Hill's Setlist:
-"Killing Me Softly"
-"Everything Is Everything"
-"How Many Mics"
-"Ready or Not"
-"Killing Me Softly" (Reprise)
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-"Jammin'" (Bob Marley cover)
-"Zimbabwe" (Bob Marley cover)
-"Doo-Wop (That Thing)"