As Positive Vibration Festival closes the doors on another successful event, The Waveform Transmitter’s Teddy Armstrong was on hand to see out to the sweet end.
Big, thick bass, off-beat rhythms, and staccato chords drift on the wind. Deep, pulsating drums permeate the air, we wander towards the entrance. Oh yeah, here we go!
This weekend saw the return of Positive Vibration, Liverpool’s own reggae festival. The award-winning cultural appreciation event attracted a swathe of music fans who, like me, swooped into the Baltic Triangle with anticipation and eager excitement…we were not left disappointed.
The festival began with the mid-week Art of Reggae exhibition, showcasing the best modern reggae posters, designed by artists from around the world. The quality was amazing and the fact that you can buy what you see was very cool. All money raised from the exhibition goes towards helping a school in Jamaica, so for an amazing cause too!
A true celebration of all things reggae, the stages and the venues were found lavishing adorned with colour, bright flags and giant flowers. An immense effort had been put into the aesthetics of the site, generating a rejoiceful atmosphere.
The surrounding streets were pedestrianised, which certainly added to the feel of an inner-city music festival, creating a relaxed and chilled out vibe, with stalls selling authentic Jamaican food, Rasta-clothing, hemp products, henna art, records and even a massage stall! Colour and art drenched every available space, further adding to the complete Caribbean festival experience, Mr Sunshine turned up too and even took his hat off for us!
Friday night saw artists like the reggae-dub group Vibronics take to the stage, consisting of two MCs, a percussionist, and a DJ. They whipped the Constellations club audience into a mini frenzy before Reggae Roast W/Earl Gateshead & MC brother Culture continued the Caribbean journey.
In the Constellations garden the local No Fakin’ guys merged their unique hip-hop flavour with the Reggae style, whilst over at Hangar 34 Dub producer Aba Shanti-l, legendary Sir Coxsone Outernational Sound System, plus One a penny & Saxon Sound systems, span some epic tunes that showcased the roots of the genre and the beauty of the culture. New Bird St saw local talent including Medicine Men and rapper Nicky Talent while over in District Jah Shaka Official Sound System kept the party going into the small hours.
It was an action-packed day on the Saturday, in the morning we saw lots of activities for families to soak up the Jamaican culture like the RASTAquarium, a Reggae Q&A with Pauline Black, Dennis Bovell and John Robb, and Levi Tafari’s dub poetry workshop happening alongside performances from Golty Farabeau and Mount Nakara. New Town Kings eased the crowd into the early evening with a solid set of reggae songs that included a cover of Gregory Isaac’s Night Nurse. (Thanks for that, stuck in my head for days now!)
What kind of Reggae festival would it be without the Sound systems? The impressive ‘houses of joy’ that stood stacked like sonic skyscrapers that would thump you in your chest and literally blow you off your feet, Sinai’s 2 stack sound system that powered the dub room in Hanger34 left a massive impression on my hearing and my pummelled chest cavity. Just the way it should be!
It was in this room that Scientist blew me away with some serious reggae-tronica, heavy beats and melodious melodica lines that stirred and soared through the pulsating air, as the MC’s transported the listeners to the distant Island.
Prince Fatty and Horseman brought their upbeat, sunshine reggae style to the Constellations club stage, as outside Soul Jazz Records burnt the midnight oil creating a fantastic atmosphere for an exuberant garden audience, people skanking left and right, bobbing up and down in time with the deep, off-beat, Reggae rhythms.
Don Letts supplied District with his usual quality choice of tunes, which all contributed nicely to a dance marathon for lots of feet.
2 Tone legends The Selector produced a quality hour of ska-reggae infused numbers such as Too Much Pressure and On the Radio with a set full of energy that got the whole Hangar34 venue dancing and singing along.
Over the weekend we were blessed with a motherload of top disc jockeys, engineers and MC’s who entertained the dance ravenous crowds, with outfits like Trojan Records official club night, Channel One and Ras Kwame plus so many more fantastic artists and sound systems, like Backbeat, I Mitri Counteraction, Dubmatix , Dennis Bovell, Danny Fitzgearld, Western promise and the Hempolics all bringing the biggest and best sounds.
Truth be told, there were so many good artists, I personally had to sacrifice watching one set to catch another, not a bad predicament to be in. The hours burnt down quickly, only fuelling the “Time flies, when you’re having fun” saying and as the end of the night sang with the birds, I could not believe it was time to go home.
Much praise is due to the organisers for a fantastic festival that keeps getting bigger and better every year. The crowds were brilliant and never stopped dancing, there was a great relaxed vibe, it was child friendly with all the venues truly embracing the Jamaican make-overs. The volunteers, as always, showed their tireless effort and dedication with a smile!
The investment from Arts Council England, this year, shone a light on the potential for this kind of festival, look out for the next POSITIVE VIBRATION dates because, if this year’s vibrations are anything to go by, it will be positively amazing! Rastafari!
All images courtesy of Mark McNulty.