If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done. However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment.
Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.
The stage was set, no pun intended, for my triumphant attendance at what many considered to be Reggae on the River, 2015’s premier event, Stephen Marley. A huge component of my original formula for success, included a strong selling point: I would have access to a little niche carved into the overflow of festival-goers, who shared my view that watching the performers from the middle of the bowl, was not workable.
Casey had described the arena as having a broad swath of available turf up the hill, behind the beer garden, which he described as Family-ville. There folks put up little shade pavilions to protect children and their respective parents from the scorching sun. Children were not a requirement for setting up your spot and enjoying this area.
Among those who had taken up residence in this less intense venue, was a friend of Casey named Rob. Rob, his wife, Nicole, their young son, and Nicole’s folks occupied a little oasis in this area, with a standing invitation that any of us who felt like popping in for some music and good company, should do so.
It doesn’t get any better than this. No way could I be up on that little side-stage during Stephen’s performance-too many people-not enough space. Up here where the sound is perfect and the big screen brings everything right into our space, is the best of all worlds.
I mentioned earlier that I was surprised at how punctual the artists appeared on stage, with Stick Figure actually starting twenty-five minutes early. Such was not to be the case with Stephen Marley, but I had no worries. Casey and I had made our way up to Robbie’s and had plopped ourselves down on the spread blankets, knowing that we were at least a couple of hours away from game time.
Tarrus Riley performed prior to Stephen, an artist with whom I was unfamiliar, and I lay down on my back and closed my eyes.
Toes-do your thing. Feet, you’re next. Slowly, slowly, heels, follow suit.
Deborah, the first leg of my therapeutic journey, had seen me for twelve visits back in the spring of 2010. She had informed my on my first visit, that she could not “fix” my panic attack syndrome, but that she could provide me with some key tools for reducing stress and anxiety. One was a simple relaxation strategy that I employ on a regular basis.
I slept for at least an hour, and awoke as they were setting up for Stephen. Casey and I chatted, comparing notes, and agreeing that all was a great success.
Going back to the dead of last winter, when the lineup for ROTR first appeared, I have geared for this moment, and now it has arrived. A great success, indeed.
Lito and some of his entourage had joined us while I was napping, and he made sure I knew that he was sharing in my appreciation of the moment. Time stood still, as it is want to do, with there being neither a sense of urgency, nor any impression that time was dragging. Plenty of time to savor the moment.
Plenty of time to pass the bong around and share in some of the same goodness, that HappyDay Farms had managed to convey to all of the Marley clan, through Desmond.
As Stephen was introduced, and the first chords of “Made in Africa” began, I felt the emotion welling up in me, as I had expected.
“Educate yourself of, Africa
To liberate yourself, Africa
Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry
Our history that they stole, Africa
Is written in our souls, Africa
Oh this nation and this earth
Know just what you’re worth.”
I had never fully grasped the horrific reverberations of an entire continent being raped and plundered by outside forces. Regardless of whom the perpetrators were, the atrocities committed to so many unique cultures, in the name of any conceivable god or concept, were reprehensible.
“Well, well. Ships that sailed to distant places
Robbed us of our rights and words
History says that you’ve betrayed us
Talking to the gods you serve
Hear the rumbling in the sky
Tears that our forefathers cried
And today we’re still in chase
Take the shackles from our minds.”
Listening to this son of Bob Marley, imbuing me with a far clearer picture of what it meant to have had one’s forefathers endure these indignities, brings this particular holocaust right up on the front burner of my little pea brain.
“You’re the cornerstone, The king of wonder grown
How beautiful art thou, Africa, A nation you have to bow, Africa
Don’t you fall from grace, You’re that sacred place.
Our children must be taught of Africa, The science and the arts of Africa. Educate yourself, Africa...”
Stephen played eight songs before “No Cigarette Smoking (in My Room)” came on, one of them being “Old Slaves.” I have included a link to this song, as well as to “Made in Africa,” because one song is worth a thousand history lessons.
“You wanna see my face?
Look in my pains...Look in my pains...Look in my pains...”
You see them pains from yesterday? Look in my pains...
And this morning feels so close to the past
For just yesterday, we were left in the dark
And the oppression from those chains still weighs on your and my brain.
Can you see what I’m saying? Look in my pains.
Was I born free? Was I born a slave?
Look in my pains. Wanna see my pains? Look at my face.
With the whip upon your mind so your mind leads your soul astray.
You can see that today we are all modern slaves.
We’ve been thinking that slavery is just from ancient days,
But that’s the puppet master’s game.
Can you see what I’m saying?
Look at my pains.
Indescribable. Nothing like it. When my right brain takes control, it is like no rush ever. Such the powerful combination of content, musical genius, and empathy for a period in time, when man’s inhumanity to man, set the bar for terrorism at an impossibly high level.
That one percent, which controls so much of the economic lifeline to the poor, is resetting that bar, even as we speak, on a global level.
If you know reggae music, then you know all of this. If you do not, then be aware of these basic principles: When indomitable spirit which has undergone the worst of what mankind’s dark side has to offer, emerges stronger than ever, one reason might just be the pervading theme of positivism and love that is contained in this music.
I mentioned “No Cigarette Smoking” as being the eighth song. It was one of several that I was waiting for, because I knew that it would provide for me, a fitting climax to my experience at ROTR. This one would surpass even that of being able to meander through the bowl at the height of the festival, reveling in every step of the journey.
I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There. All done.
Done? Not even close.