With Stephen, Damian, and Julian Marley, 2 Chainz, Future, Mavado, Capleton, and many others
Virginia Key Beach Park
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Better Than: Freezing your butt off at a non-reggae outdoor festival.
There is no doubt that 50-degree weather in Jamaica does not exist. Well, maybe in some oddball global warming scenario. But when you think of reggae, you think of sunshine, weed, and heat! At this year's Nine Mile Music Festival, though, South Florida reggae diehards not only brought their lawn chairs, but wool blankets and space heaters.
Surprisingly enough, the cold climate did not deter the 10,000-plus attendees (some from as far north as Gainesville) came down to toke the herb and pay homage to the music man that made it so essential. And aside from the chilly temp, Nine Mile was blessed with pure sunshine and clear skies.
The gates opened at 2 p.m. and a steady stream of people came through with their canned goods to donate to Curley House, the homeless charity that the Marleys have been supporting since the inception of this festival. The staple host, Lance-O, was on point, as always, keeping the audience enlightened with his informational tidbits about the Nine Mile fest's history.
First to take the stage was Jamaican singer-songwriter Kelissa, who invoked a 2013 version of India.Arie. Her soulful performance got the early-bird crowd in good spirits for the long-day ahead. Next came Daniel "Bambaata" Marley, son of Ziggy Marley, who delivered an energetic 30-minute stage show. Clearly, music's in this boy's DNA.
By 4 p.m. Rasta legend Luciano steps up, front and center. Now, reggae purists were a bit miffed to see a roots artist as repected as Luciano get such an early set time. But that didn't stop the man from bringing his 110 percent. The Jah Messenger sang all the classic Rastafari hits, such as "It's Me Again Jah" and "Where There Is Life," which, of course, inspired the crowd to blaze up the early evening sky.
After the uplifting set by the Messenger, it was time for the Prophet, the incomparable Capleton!
Now, Capleton can do no wrong. When this man performs, you are witnessing something divine and his hour-long set definitely brought the heat, despite the chilly weather. They don't call him the "Fireman" for nothing.
Capleton's sunset session was, indeed, a turning point in the festival's vibe. Once the sun went down, it soon switched from chilled, rasta, hippie-dance-in-the-weed-wind energy to keep-on-smoking-but-let's-party vibe!
Around 6 p.m., up-and-coming dancehall artist Konshens hit the stage for a quick and dirty pow-wow set. His performance wasn't all there, because he was battling the flu, doing his best while trying not to cough in between tracks.
Soon, though, the festival became a carnival when Machel Montano, Mr. Fete himself, dropped an intense 60-minute soca set on the Nine Mile crowd. And there is no doubt that MM brings out the flags. The Trinidad & Tobago colors flitted through the audience as he got the fans dancing and sweating in the cold weather. We're sure that if Montano wasn't a soca superstar, he'd make the best Crossfit trainer ever.
After the trip through T&T, we were all greeted by hip-hop's Dungeon Family, i.e. Future and crew. It was a somewhat strange pairing, having two of commercial hip-hops biggest newbies (Future and 2 Chainz) on such a reggae-centric lineup. The show suddenly went from Caribbean "Yah Mon" vibes to "Racks on Racks on Racks." Granted, there were many Future fans in the crowd, but the reggae heads took this time for emergency bathroom breaks and to reload on their herbs.
Then at 9:30 p.m., Jamaica's most notorious "Bad Man," Mavado, jumped on stage, wailing, "Gangstaaaa fi life!" and headed straight into his debut 2007 single, "Real McKoy." Fake gun shots were fired and air horns were unleashed. The fest had gone full Gully as the newest member of Khaled's We the Best roster belted out his gangsta classics like "Weh Dem a Do," "Last Night," and "On the Rock."
What better artist than 2 Chainz to follow a gangster like Mavado .... But no, rumors were swirling backstage that Mr. Chainz would be closing out the night!
What now? The Marleys aren't even closing out their own festival? Travesty!
Regardless, at 10:45 p.m., Bob Marley's offspring came on stage with 50-plus members of their ever-growing crew. The Marley brothers launched into their intro track, "The Mission," and it got everyone pumped up.
From the get-go, there was no question that Nine Mile was a hometown show. The Marleys can do no wrong in Miami. They could literally stand on the stage, singing the alphabet, and it would probably still stir the same love and affection in their South Florida fans.
Stephen, Damian, and Julian's hour-and-a-half set included the best of all three brothers, not to mention an interesting take on Damian Marley's "Make it Bun Dem" single he did with Skrillex. Let's just say dubstep performed by a live reggae band just doesn't have the same vibe.
The Marleys' honorary brother, Spragga Benz, made a guest appearance for their epic jam session, "Traffic Jam." There was a nice shout-out tribute to Buju Banton during Stephen's "Jah Army." And they, of course, closed out their set with Damian's biggest hit, "Welcome to Jamrock," during which thousands of voices sang in unison, "Out in the streets, they call it murrrrda!," followed by Bob's greatest unifying song, "Could You Be Loved" that got the Nine Mile crowd swaying back and forth, full of righteous vibes.
The festival might as well have just ended there.
It was already closing in on midnight and the temperature was nearing 40 degrees. Plus, approximately 80 percent of the audience left, sprinting to their heated cars. Only the ladies in stiletto heels and mini-skirts stuck around to try their luck with Tity Boi, himself, 2 Chainz.
Let's be real ... When you're rocking knee high leather boots and a short black dress in bone-chilling weather, you are only here for one person and that person only wants one thing for his birthday. Needless to say, the sparse crowd didn't stop Mr. Chainz for putting on a respectable show. Rapping alongside track to his biggest radio hits, and boy does he have a lot, it was like listening to Power96 on repeat.
Starting it off with "Mercy," then grinding through "Beez in the Trap," "No Lie," "Birthday Song," and "I'm Different," 2 Chainz definitely pulled up to the scene with his ceiling missing. His signature "Truuuuuuu" echoed through the night as he left the stage near 1:30 a.m. and jumped in his stretch Lincoln Navigator with some of the lucky booty girls in the front row
Now that's proof that perseverance pays. And mini-dresses in 40-degree weather pays more!
Personal Bias: This year's decision to include two of hip-hop's biggest names, Future and 2 Chainz, might have made the reggae superfans upset, but there's no denying that the attendee level spiked dramatically from previous years. No official count yet, but festival producers are quoting close to 15,000 by the end of the night. Truuuuuuuu!
Shout Out: Ingrid in the golf cart for being a boss backstage and festival producer Neil Robertson for being such a pro, on and off stage. Looking forward to next year!
Marley Brothers' Setlist:
-"Violence in the Streets"
-"Make it Bun Dem"
-"Affairs of the Heart"
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-"Welcome to Jamrock"
-"Could you be Loved"