Kids, kites, coolers, grills, girls, and sweet reggae music: The 11th Annual Midwest Reggae Fest sounds almost too good to be true. Past headliners have included Jamaica's cream of the crop; just the same, a number of those artists have made last-minute cancellations over the years, which seems the likely cause for keeping this year's fest more of a celebration of Ohio's own reggae artists.
Headlining this year is Deighton Charlemagne, best remembered as the frontman for Identity, the Columbus band that, in 1989, accomplished the unlikely feat of getting signed to Island Records' then-flourishing Mango subsidiary. After two tasteful albums, the group disbanded.
Jamaican expat Istan Black will perform alongside the Sweets, a vocal trio capable of giving some of Jamaica's finest a run for their money. Istan and the Sweets have become one of Cleveland's best live reggae acts, no doubt thanks to their collaboration with backing band Stagalag -- which, despite a recent change in lineup, continues to boast one of the tightest, spunkiest rhythm sections around. In addition to backing Istan and the Sweets, Stagalag will perform a set of its own, as will Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band, Columbus's Flex Crew, and Akron's self-proclaimed "Reggae Jambassadors," the Mighty Levites.
MC for the afternoon will be Jamaica-born Ras Matunji, who otherwise fronts Cleveland's longest running reggae outfit, Earthforce. Veteran DJs Black Scorpio and Rich Lowe, both from Case Western's WRUW-FM/91.1, will provide music between sets. The fun begins at noon and runs till sundown.