Tribute to the Legends is an exclusive west coast engagement. It is the largest reggae function in San Diego. Last year we paid tribute to Gregory Isaacs, an amazingly talented roots reggae artist known for his lovers-rock beats. Isaac’s played two years ago but passed a year after in October, it only made sense that we pay tribute to him. Some artists said their peace about him and others played covers of his songs. The reggae community will miss him.
You can hear and smell the concert long before you head downstairs into the arena. The booming bass and thick smoke let you know you have arrived. The mix of people is the most diverse of any show I’ve seen. People of all ages come to pay tribute. Reggae music is about celebrating the spirit and finding unity in diversity. The atmosphere is always friendly and joyous.
Founder of the World Beat Center Makeda Dread mc’d the festival. She spread positive messages and introduced artists such as Horace Andy as the stage revolved. Heavy bass-man Horace Andy, known for his song “Money, Money”, kept the crowd rocking to his chunky beats and his melodious voice.
Israel Vibrations is a legendary roots band. The powerful wailing voice of Skelly rang out in the dance hall inspiring movement in the crowd, they played a groovin’ set. The group is most noted for their use of crutches due to childhood Polio. The crutches do not slow these guys down from dancing and keeping an upbeat spirit. It was a true treasure to have them in San Diego.
German reggae star Gentleman played a lively and uplifting set. His fast flowing lyrics and fast beats really picked up the pace of the show. Check out his songs “Superior” and “Intoxication”, he played dynamic versions of both. His voice translated very well in a live setting.
Don Carlos was truly the main event for me. Opening with “I love Jah” brought a consciousness to the crowd. Towering over his band, Don Carlos danced with a gentle smile on his face that spread contagious positivity. The music his band played was heavy and rooted. His bass played layed down heavy lines while jumping and moving most of his set. You really can’t help but dance to the combination of Don Carlos smooth voice and positive vibes. He let San Diego know he loves us and we love him too!
The only living wailer, Bunny Wailer, took the stage as headliner. Bunny dressed as rasta royalty head to toe and played a legendary set including a skanking version of Bob Marley’s “Simmer Down”. He also played his own slow jam “Cool Runnings”. Bunny Wailer might have been one of the eldest performers but he definitely kept a high energy and spirit. A crazy dancer and a true reggae legend was the perfect ending to the show.
After the lights came up and the smoke began to clear, a feeling of accomplishment and unity filled the empty arena. Gregory Isaacs would have been proud of San Diego, we paid tribute with all our heart. San Diego loves reggae and we can’t wait until the 31st Annual Tribute to the Legends in 2012. ~Tom Searcy