By: Chris Zabala

Reggae, Hip-Hop, and EDM.  Being that I love music all types of music, especially reggae and hip-hop, I strolled into the first ever Bay Area Vibez music festival with excitement and an open mind.  With the weekend’s calendar already stacked with Beyond Wonderland and Oakland Music Festival, it made it a difficult decision for many festival goers to decide which festival they wanted to attend.  By far the most diverse lineup of the weekend, Bay Area Vibez catered to several different musical genre niches with globally recognized acts headlining each night.

Like all music festivals, the first one is always by far the roughest in terms of planning and execution.  Once you have that solid foundation of knowledge, each festival after that will get smoother and smoother.  With the online promotion saying the festival was going to start at 11:30 am, I decided to arrive early, pick up my media credentials and get a lay of the land before the masses of people flock to the Middle Shoreline Harbor Park in Oakland.  To my chagrin, 11:30 am came and went with no sounds of music.  Only the sporadic on goings of soundcheck filled the park.  It wasn’t until a little after 12:30 pm when the first act came on stage.  A little worried with the late start, hoping and praying that they didn’t sacrifice any time off of that night’s headliners, the Marley’s.  Once the show got underway, there was no rest for the weary.  Act after act of talented musicians paraded on and off both stages.  A few of my favorites acts that I didn’t know when the day started included Mod Sun and Forrest Day.  

Mod Sun’s energy was contagious.  Despite everyone trickling in during their early set, it didn’t stop them from putting on an amazing performance.  Their performance was so much fun to watch, I would like to say just about anybody and everybody who could stroll over to the second stage did.  Forrest Day, a local band from Oakland performing on the main stage, definitely brought everything they had to the table for Bay Area Vibez.  I was trying to grab a bite to eat, but once I heard their set I jumped out of line and rushed over to the stage.  Their alternative, funky, soul was an eclectic mix that worked perfectly on stage.  I immediately became a huge fan.  These are two acts that reminded me why I love music.  Relatively unknown to me, but at the end of the day, they were all I could talk about.  

Another set I was really looking forward to seeing was Eligh and The Grouch.  I love hip hop and by hip-hop, and by hip-hop you know exactly what I mean.  This was true to form of what I expect out of a hip hop performance.  No glam, nothing fancy, just a couple of emcees with their backbone of a DJ supporting their set.  From start to finish they exemplified hip hop at its truest form.  I couldn’t get over DJ Fresh’s huge Boombox MPC and how he totally just captivated the crowd as he made his way from behind the turntables to the front of the stage.  

As the day progressed, more and more festival-goers started to filling the park with the names of Aloe Blacc, Tarrus Riley, Stephen Marley and Damien Marley still to come.  I’ve been following all of these acts for some time now and my excitement couldn’t have been controlled.  As expected all of these musicians came to the stage, entertained and left nothing to be wanted.  The put their all into each one of their performances.  

Aloe Blacc took the stage with the band from Sankofa Sound.  Sankofa is a non-profit where artists and performers use their music, creative gifts, and their standing in society to place a light on pressing issues.  A great organization with an amazing mission.  From song to song, “I Need a Dollar” to “The Man” and lastly “Wake Me Up”, Aloe Blacc’s set was absolutely amazing.  Tying in socially relevant issues with his set and utilizing the power of music to help relate the importance of these issues with the audience, this is one set I hope the audience remembers.

Personally, I’ve been wanting to see Tarrus Riley live for a few years now.  I, unfortunately, missed his performance at Mayjah Rayjah in Hawaii since I didn’t make it out for this years festival.  I was stoked to see his name on the line-up and knew this, along with the other headliners, was one set that I couldn’t afford to miss.  Mr. Riley has been on constant rotation in my Island Reggae playlist.  It was a special surprise with the audience knowing the lyrics to his songs,  "She’s Royal" and “Superman”.  A consummate performer, he captivated the attention of the crowd with his voice and his energy.  I’m am very thankful for being able to experience his live performance.  I was also able to sit in on his press conference after his performance and learn more about everything he does he gives back to his community.  He truly utilizes his musical talents for the better support of those around him.  He launched a program called “Freedom Writers” which is a writing competition that attempts to create awareness among the youth about black history.  He also puts on a free concert for the people of Jamaica to celebrate music and their culture.

Like many people, it’s not every day you get an opportunity to see Stephen and Damian Marley perform.  I felt super blessed that I was able to to take in part of each of their performances from the photo pit.  There aren’t many words that can describe their performance besides the generic words to describe live music, such as amazing, awesome, incredible, etc.  It was definitely an experience for me.  After a long day of shooting pictures, networking and standing it was at this moment when I knew it was all worth it.  Everyone I had listened to prior to the Marley’s was absolutely stunning, but after having the pleasure of taking in both Marley’s sets I was in a whole new world.  #bucketlist #checkmark

One of my favorite moments of Day 1 included sitting on a bench backstage just outside the media area scrolling through some of the pictures I’ve taken throughout the day when a voice says “hey, how’s it going?”  I look up and it was Mr. Aloe Blacc himself.  (#IsThisRealLife) I looked around just in case he wasn’t talking to me, but there was no one in range.  At this point in time, I almost peed in my pants, but I managed to maintain my composure and have an incredible conversation with him about music, the Bay Area and what our company aspires to do for musicians everywhere.  Totally a surreal moment and one that keeps pushing me to continue to do what we strive to do.

It was definitely a great day at Day 1 of Bay Area Vibez.  Although I was tired, exhausted, and whatever other synonyms you could throw in here, I could only look forward to Day 2 with some of my all time favorites hitting the stage.  It was time to get some rest and prepare for the next day ahead.

To view pictures from the Bay Area Vibez Music Festival; click here!