The 2014 Unity Festival in Guerneville, CA took place on Sept. 12-14 with a full lineup of conscious music that included greats like Easy Star All Stars, Tribal Theory and Yellowman. In fact, the myriad talent on stage was so vast that it could be considered a near endless string of great musicians singing, playing guitars, drums, keyboards, bass, various percussion and even ukuleles. At the start of this coverage (found here,) a reader said, “how could the author not write about Easy Star All Stars?” Everyone has their favorite experiences at any one festival. The headliners are typically already well known and stand out even before they hit the stage. Their performances are expected to wow as well as draw the crowds. Easy Star All Stars did, in fact, do just that.
The passionate singing of Easy Star vocalist Kirsty Rock set many hearts afire including talented photographer Sly of Sly Vegas Photography who stated, “this woman was so intense! my heart is still pounding! pure radiance!” Talented artists who put their heart into their performances always move the crowd and Kirsty Rock rocked the crowd out of this world as Easy Star All Stars performed their new hit version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon called Dub Side of the Moon with songs like Great Dub in the Sky, Money, Time, Step It Pon The Rastaman Scene and other songs that hit home with the Unity fans. The ESAS performance of Brain Damage got the crowd cheering at the “lunatic is in my head” verses while the whole shining crew brought Unity Fest to a close on Sunday night like a blazing comet.
While there will always be some unhappy attendees at any event no matter how great the music, food or staff, sometimes it’s just the nature of the beast to look for the worst rather than celebrate the best. Some attendees take the opposite stance and go out of their way to have fun and praise the positive. Kelleen Peters states that she and her children, who range in age from 7 to 19, “absolutely loved King Yellowman’s performance on Saturday.” She further notes that “Blaze Mob completely stole my heart and soul with their humble melodic rhythms … maximum respect goes out to Nyah Bless for taking the time to coach the youths with some soccer juggling. Our Rasta community needs more leaders like him reaching out to the children … I also really enjoyed the wonderful Jamaican Ital food that was available via vendors … we’re looking forward to Unity Fest 2015.”
Unity Festival organizers aim to make the event accessible to a wide variety of people and state that some of their favorite aspects of the festival include “everyone coming together, watching the children of tomorrow playing and the staff and artists creating a dream … and making it a reality.” Many attendees were most impressed with the variety of music combined with a high level of talent. The talent on the schedule also included CRSB whose vocals were outstanding. Chris Ramos and Sonny B should do well with their Island/Pop/R&B/Reggae music if talent is any indicator. They were among one of the favorite up and coming bands to perform at Unity 2014. The musical duo is based in the San Francisco bay area and truly capture their audiences’ attention with their original songs that “bridge the gap between Island Music and Pop Culture.”
CRSB was preceded by One A-Chord who are known as “Monterey’s premier Island Reggae band” and followed by the Friday headliners Tribal Theory whose “signature is the fusion of their Pacific Island culture with the feel good vibes of Reggae, grittiness of Urban Ska, and the soulful harmonies of R&B.” The sequence of three bands that fuse Island influences with Reggae and other genres made for a cohesive flow with some fundamental similarities but great degrees of originality and uniqueness.
Blaze Mob members Shaka Rock, Gyasi Gong and King Saeed brought on the authentic Reggae/Roots/Dancehall vibe and with special guest Garth Dennis, formerly with the world renown Black Uhuru, they shone bright at Unity. They hit the stage on Sunday at noon and perhaps should have been on the schedule for a later hour when more people are fully awake and ready for the Reggae. However, all the styles of bands were great and there were less than a hands count of those that one might not rave about their vocal or instrumental skills. Even those had their fans and supporters so perhaps its all in the ears of the listener.
The final splash at Unity Festival 2014 was the Easy Star All Star performance accompanied by a laser light show. While it was a nice addition it was not appreciated as much as a light show might be since most of the display occurred behind the crowd on the tree tops. The lights dancing behind the musicians on stage was difficult to discern on the beautifully colored backdrop but it was still a fun addition when looking around the venue watching the stream of lights ripple, dance, and wave as ESAS’s Dub Side of the Moon pulled the festival attendees into their entrancing set.
The festival was overall a success. There were those who grumbled. There was room for more attendance. A few hours of each day were a tad hot and bright. However, the lineup was something wonderful that Conscious Music and Reggae fans in the Guerneville and nearby areas that didn’t attend would surely have loved. Plans are already in the mix for the next year so it’s highly recommended that you put it on your calendar and get ready for some more near endless sets of great music. Thumbs up to all the artists who performed at Unity 2014 that were not specifically mentioned here or in the previous article “Unity artist lineup hits the mark with Yellowman plus.” You rock Papafish, Mellow Movement, One Drop, One A-Chord, Lucid Lion, Skunk Dub, Riotmaker, Dewey and the Peoples, Iya Terra, Irie Fuse, A’ La Lune, Tatanka, Ezzrah, Mystic Roots, Clear Conscience and Lionheart. You rock the fest and the stage. Your make the world a better place with your heart driven talent.