The 18th Annual Nine Mile Music Festival at Bayfront Park, March 12

See the full 33-photo Nine Mile Music Festival slideshow.

The 18th Annual Nine Mile Music Festival

(Formerly Bob Marley Movement Caribbean Festival)

Featuring Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Julian Marley, Ky-Mani Marley, Slightly Stoopid, Inner Circle, Major Lazer, Thievery Corporation, and Others

Bayfront Park, Miami
Saturday, March 12, 2011 

Better Than: Getting stuck on Washington Avenue during WMC.

There's nothing Miamians love more than an outdoor music festival.  With our near-perfect weather, the effervescent sunshine, and cool ocean breeze, it's a sure-fire win for any South Florida concert promoter to do all things outside.

The 18th Annual Nine Mile Music Festival started promptly at 2 p.m. with local openers, Fourth Dimension setting the tone with some roots reggae energy. Did we mention that Saturday's weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in sight? The park was the perfect location for a beautiful day out where half-naked hippies sunbathed, played hacky-sack, and smoked weed. Ahhhhhh, yes! If marijuana was illegal, we sure didn't know it with the amount of spliffs, bongs, and high-grade Humboldt County trees that was scenting up the air. Welcome to Amsterami!

After the relaxing chill-out from Fourth Dimension came the roaring basslines of DJ Juan Basshead. Better known on the scene as a hardcore Miami-bass-booty-shaking-breaks sort of dude, Juan did bring some reggae stylings to his DJ set. Up next was the duo Benjah and Dillavou, a rock-soul-reggae-Christian group that calls themselves "Lov'd Ones." It was interesting, a lot less Jah Jah references and more Jesus Christ chants.  

Next up was Kevens, a musical wizard who has been playing the local circuit for years. In fact, one of his claims to fame was being part of the Zen Festival, a rave-meets-spiritual-reggae-mash-out back in 1997, where he shared the stage with electronica gods Rabbit in the Moon. Fast-forward to 2011: No Rabbits in sight. But overall, Kevens extensive live show still proves that he's a truly gifted musician. 

After Kevens' weird, dubbed-out trance-rock-reggae came the more traditional roots reggae of Inner Circle. Now, the young kids aren't so familiar with the band, but they can definitely sing along, word-for-word, with über-hit "Bad Boys." And then in between set changes, we had dubstep maverick, DJ Mala, come on board to rip-roar a serious set of high-octane dance music. Let's just say, the old hippies weren't digging it. 

After Mala, though, the hippies got the first of four Marley brothers, Ky-Mani. Immensely talented, he and his band gave a heart-felt acoustic performance of his dad's "Redemption Song." And it gave goose bumps to the entire 7,000-plus audience. 

Quickly following Ky-Mani came the biggest shocker on the bill, Major Lazer. Yeah, I know what you're saying: Major Lazer does a hybrid of dancehall and dub, so they're not too far from the Jamaican vibe. But around the same time last year, this crew was ripping and roaring at the Live Stage during Ultra Music Festival. And Nine Mile festival-goers definitely aren't glowstick-toting ravers. Nevertheless, Major Lazer ripped it for everyone who came to smoke some kush and stay chill. It's definitely not "get high" music but it sure did get the crowd jumping, sporadically. And there's no better master of crowd craziness than Major Lazer's hype man and nutjob, Skerrit Bwoy, whose main duty is to wile out and get everyone else following.

Up next, another weird addition to the lineup: Thievery Corporation. Now, I love these guys. But honest-to-God, they put my ass to sleep. I cannot even tell you a highlight of their set as it served as nothing more than background music. Next!

DJ Hatcha, another grime king, took to the DJ booth, trying his best to please the non-existent WMC crowd. And after his 20 minute set came Cali boys Slightly Stoopid, who definitely brought out all the white surfer hipsters in their Haivanas sandals and khaki shorts.  Even though they served as one of the main headliners, my recommendation for next year is to keep these jam bands to either first or last. Their overbearing set went beyond their time limit, which resulted in the main acts getting cut by almost an hour. 

Now the moment we've all been waiting for: Julian, Damian, and Stephen Marley all took the stage as the crowd lit up with screams and cheers. They didn't waste time, singing some of Bob's biggest tunes such as "Three Little Birds," "War," "Jamming," and "Get Up, Stand Up" featuring reggae icon Gramps Morgan from Morgan Heritage. And then Gramps stayed and played his classic tune "Wash the Tears."

This, I guess, was the "Special Guests" section of the show as Gramps leaves and Stephen introduces Christopher Ellis, son of reggae legend, Alton Ellis. After Chris came another old-school reggae band, Third World, playing their hit "96 Degrees in the Shade." Then after that bit, the three brothers came did an epic version of "Traffic Jam" featuring two of Stephen Marley's sons and one of Ziggy's. It was the young Marleys first major onstage debut.  

Finally, Stephen and Damian went into their songs "Jah Army" and "The Mission" and capping up the entire night with the sing-along, "Could You Be Loved".

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:  I was not the biggest fan of the whole "catering to the WMC crowd" bit at all.  Major Lazer stood out like a sore thumb while the in-between dubstep DJs Mala and Hatcha got lost in the shuffle. Marley Fest is meant for reggae weed heads. So keep it that way!

Random Detail:  Spliff Star from Flipmode Squad was chilling backstage like a total fan.  Who knew?

By the way:  Walshy Fire from Black Chiney made an impromptu special guest appearance during the Major Lazer set, bringing in that Carnaval vibe ... Go Walsh. Wave that flag!

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Esther Park