“24 hours ago, I was sitting in the pool lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, sipping on Singapore slings…” No, that’s not the heart of this thing, but it was like this: I was sitting in a UCLA apartment, sipping on Faderade, and doing b-tokes waiting for the commencement of the 22nd Annual UCLA Jazz-Reggae Festival. Taking a quick detour into the heart of Westwood Village to get some Diddy Riese, the only $1.50 ice-cream sandwich in Los Angeles, I “pre-gamed” it until 3:30ish (bear in mind, it was hard to keep track of time by this point) and then walked down to the Intramural Field, where the festival is held.
Getting past security and the gates with “supplies” was surprisingly easier than previously thought because UCLA is a respected college campus. Getting onto the field, one’s eyes are drawn to two parallel rows of booths in the middle of which is the stage. Both rows of booths contain “vendors” or door-to-door salesman hocking overpriced cigarette papers or $8 funnel cakes with 2 layers of funnel with ice cream, whip cream, hot fudge, and all other ingredients necessary for a heart attack. Basically, one row of booths was over-priced merchandise and the other was over-priced food after the $35 a day admission ticket. When I arrived, it is unknown who was playing the stage, I was able to find a nice “camp-site” on the wide, green grass where I was able to just take in all the sights, sounds, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzs from the people I went with. As soon as I was acclimated, it was apparent from the scratching and beat-boxing that Immortal Technique was gracing the stage. Unfortunately, my fashionably late entrance was too late as Immortal Technique was on stage for only 15 more minutes. It was so good I wish I had a time-machine to go back and watch the beginning of the set. It was after his bittersweet set that I realized that the Jazz day, Sunday May 25, was not Jazz, but anything not associated with Reggae.
After Immortal’s set and the disappearance of his DJ gear off the stage, a few unknown artists performed for the next few hours. One artist even took the feminist route by appealing to all the women in the audience which I felt lacked sincerity. The only thing that got me through it was the cathartic burning of a thai-stick. Luckily, this torture did not last too long as The Roots came out on stage around 6 o’clock. At this point, it was agreed upon that rushing the stage to get closer was a solid idea, and solid it was. In addition to being packed into the front and providing camouflouge for another thai stick.
The Roots were absolutely fabulous; a solid hour of being unable to hear anything or think about the trembling sound of their rock-n-roll. My thoughts of anything else were blasted out of my head by the drums, guitar, and voice of the Roots. This is a band that everyone should see live. After the Roots, Day 1 was over at which point the trek back to the UCLA apartments was underway. Once there, more “pre-gaming” ensued and some flares of nightlife popped up here and there. The reporter was unable to provide coverage for this as the point of no return for “pre-gaming” had been reached quite a while before the parties and get-togethers of the Westwood Village began. As a result, this reporter decided to conserve his energy for Day 2, Reggae. May 26 began the same way the day before it had: “pre-gaming” and a trek to the village again. When I arrived, there were twice as many people lounging on the field than the day before it.
The Reggae day was better than the Jazz or “Jam” day as all of the music, including the reggae of the unknown bands, was explosive. On top of it, the grounds were covered with wisps of smoke emanating from the crowd. However, the real gem of that day was the reggae stylings of Stephen Marley. He’s no Bob, but for the times we live in, he might be one of the great Reggae acts of today, quite possibly the best Bob imitation act on stage. Although he played the quintessential Bob songs very well, he should have played more of his own songs, such as “Jamrock”, to standout from his father’s shadow. Being as close to the stage as possible, I was fortunate enough to not only catch glimpses of special-guest flag waving guy but also ZIGGY Marley, Steve’s brother. When he came out onto the stage, “Welcome to the Jungle” by Motley Crue, came to mind as the crowd went even wilder. It was eclectic for another jamming hour. After Stephen, another act came on, but a change in the weather served as a harbinger that I should leave. So, I left. To quote the Big Lebowski, the 22nd Annual UCLA Jazz-Reggae fest was a kicking time with “some burgers, some beers, a few laughs…[with the realization] that all our troubles were over”.