Delilah Gamson- Levy ’19

I first walked into Jazz Reggae Fest a few years ago, as my junior year of high school was coming to a close. This was back when JRF was on the intramural field, security wasn’t as present, and there were a few more white people with dreadlocks in the crowd. The headliners were Common and Santigold. Picnic blankets and friends sprawled across the field, and people of all ages grooved to tunes. A stage with music booming, delicious food, and cute wares lined the perimeter. My JRF experience was immensely enjoyable; I was even moved to purchase some Santigold merch. I typically don’t buy merch.

This year Jazz Reggae fest was held at Sunset Recreation Center, with sun streaming through the trees and food just a short walk away. Some delicious plátanos definitely made the trip worth it. The scale of the festival was a little smaller than when I first attended, giving Jazz Reggae a more relaxed, intimate feel. The festival felt at home in Sunset Rec. The atmosphere wasn’t that of a massive collegiate campus, but more of a getaway weekend at a neighborhood park flooded with music. I laid down next to my friends on the blanket, forgetting about the stressful academic weeks soon to come.

Similar to when I first went, the lineup this year was stellar, featuring my personal favorites Charlotte Day Wilson and Jamila Woods. Their voices filled up the park, students and non-students alike swaying along. Both singers blend multiple genres of music; their R&B infused tunes relaxed and enlivened the crowd throughout each set. Konshens finished the day, getting the crowd on their feet, teasing and encouraging us to dance and sing along. As the dancehall beats of his music radiated throughout the fest, more and more people streamed to the stage. I walked to the back of the lawn, passing by a montage of beautiful moments: young kids dancing in the sand, parents dancing with their babies, friends laughing and singing along, couples swaying romantically, and a crowd vibing to the music at the edge of the stage.

Jazz Reggae Fest doesn’t have the slight gritty feel I noticed when I first went. Yet, it felt nice to come full circle at Jazz Reggae Fest. My junior year in college is currently drawing to a close. Perhaps just as Jazz Reggae Fest has matured into something new while staying true to its origins, so have I.