Nine Mile Music Festival 2012 at Virginia Key Beach Park in Miami, March 3

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See the full 42-photo Nine Mile Music Festival slideshow.

Nine Mile Music Festival 2012

With Stephen, Damian, and Julian Marley, alongside Capleton, Burning Spear, and others

Virginia Key Beach Park

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Musicians come and go. But their music becomes immortal.

Bob Marley transcended racial barriers in the face of injustice. His music touched the hearts and minds of generations and he has come to represent Jamaican culture, peace, freedom, and the human spirit.

So when the Nine Mile Music Festival comes to town every March, fans of all colors, shapes, and sizes gather to celebrate Marley's music, influence, and legacy.

For the first time in its 19-year existence, Nine Mile took place Saturday at Virginia Key Beach Park, instead of its usual Bayside location. The result: Perhaps the best concert in the history of the event, organized every year by the Bob Marley Movement of Jah People.

"We wanted to make it bigger and better," said Adam Heiman, director of media and marketing. "When the opportunity presented itself to hold the festival [at Virginia Key], we took it because we knew it would make for a better festival."

​Besides being an obviously bigger venue, Virginia Key offered organizers the opportunity to extend the concert to 1 a.m. Since Bayfront Park is near a residential area, previous concerts were forced to end around 10 p.m. But this year, starting promptly at 1 p.m. and extending late into the night, performers took the stage as attendees shopped the more than 30 merchandise booths, enjoyed eats at more than 20 food vendors, and puffed away at Jah knows how many spliffs.

"I've been to every [Nine Mile] for the past nine years," said attendee Jean Lafleur. "This one is the best because of the lineup and all the room in this [venue]."

The lineup featured Richie Spice, Melanie Fiona, Collie Budz, and Cocoa Tea with headliners Capleton, Burning Spear, Wale and -- despite some pre-fest drama -- the Marley brothers.

"The Marley family's business is their own," said Heiman. "The rumors posed a unique challenge this year and took away from what the festival is supposed to be about -- the music, culture, and giving to charity."

As in past years, every concertgoer was required to bring four cans of canned food for entry. According to festival projections, the BMM could end up donating 50,000 canned goods this year. BMM works with homeless shelters and other charities all throughout the year.

"It's a great opportunity to not only enjoy an entire day of wondrous music, but give back to the city and community that (has nurtured) us all," said concertgoer Mary Boothe.

The performances, meanwhile, went off without any major hitch. Capleton led off the headliners at around 7:30 p.m., performing a high-energy set for over an hour to the delight of a packed crowd.

Next came Maybach Music Group standout Wale alongside Melanie Fiona, the only non-reggae performers in the 12-hour long concert.

But the highlight of the night may have been the performance of Burning Spear, who garnered one of the longest and loudest ovations from the crowd.

Though most people professed their love of the new venue and stellar lineup, a small number complained it may have been a bit too big and the concert a bit too long. Those unaware of its extended time showed up around 4 p.m. expecting to see the headliners. And many left due to sheer exhaustion before getting to see the Marley brothers.

Around midnight, though, a still-packed crowd welcomed Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and his brothers, Stephen and Julian.

All three took turns playing some of their biggest hits and, of course, their legendary father's most iconic songs. As a special addition for the fans, Spragga Benz came out in surprise and performed with the Marleys.

"What up Miami?" said Damian. "Thank you for coming to celebrate reggae music."

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