The return of Reggae Sunsplash was delayed by 60 minutes, riddled with sloppy updates, and delivered via a fragmented live-stream. Luckily, the first night’s acts offered some redemption.
The two-day festival was scheduled to start its YouTube live-stream at 6 p.m. on Friday, but instead kicked-off at 7 p.m. Virtual patrons had flocked to the event’s Instagram page to enquire about the hold-up, and a broadcast was issued an hour before its new start time.
The night featured the “musical greatness before the 2000s,” and Capleton was among the showstoppers.
The ‘King of Fire’ was aptly welcomed with a sea of fire emojis, and engaged the live chat of 1,600 viewers as if they were in the room with him.
“Gimmie a jump!” his voice exclaimed after running out on stage and jumping on a platform. Small World was his appetizer and set the encore precedent for the remaining songs he performed. Adorned in a silky red and green suit with gold embellishments, the high-energy entertainer was flagman-free and delivered his infectious jumps and impassioned belts with classics like Jah Jah City, Stand Tall and Jah Protect Us.
“We reach di energy part a di show,” he said as he recruited his dancehall catalogue. The chat stayed ablaze as he unleashed hits like Fire Time, Or Wah and Consuming. Among the things he “dashed a fire” on were racism, sexism, SARS, and the reason the event was virtual to begin with – COVID-19.
Patrons used hand emojis for all his “if you know seh” conditions, and commended him for his occasional interludes about inequality and righteousness. He rounded-off his 40-minute set with old school joints like Slew Dem, Badmind and Same Old Story.
The staging’s only female act, Tanya Stephens, was also a well-needed treat, as she offered sexually-lucid anecdotes, expletives, you know, the unfiltered Stephens that music lovers live for.
The born storyteller curated her 30-minute set with the frustrated wife of These Streets, and What’s Your Story, and her embittered state when the relationship ends in Can’t Breathe and After You. The entertainer also had folks sending fire and lightning bolt emojis in the chat, and evoked some laughter with her saucy interludes.
“Mi waan big up all a di man dem in yah tonight, regardless of how hung or unhung you are, but especially if you are hung,” she said before getting into Boom Wuk.
The 90s gang wasn’t neglected as she performed Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet and Can’t Touch Me No More, and she also dropped some 2020 tracks like Unf*ck You and If Whisky Can’t Fix Me. She culminated her set with It’s A Pity, and let patrons know the performance was the first time she’d had fun in months.
Reggae singer Richie Spice brought some balance to the show, magnified in his prayer before he “blessed the stage.” The virtual performance saw Spice exploring his catalogue in longform, and vibing with the Ruff Kutt Band throughout the 40-minute set. He delivered timeless records like Blood Again, Earth A Run Red and Youths So Cold.
The empresses were acknowledged too as he sang virtual-chat favourites Ghetto Girl, Brown Skin and Grooving My Girl. The herb lovers weren’t left out either, and sent some “pesheng weng weng weng” comments as he performed Di Plane Land and Marijuana. He also performed newer records like Together We Stand and Red Hot.
He didn’t fit Night One’s description, but Ras-I was rostered and elevated the chill of the festival. The singer said he’d dreamt of touching the Sunsplash stage since he was a child, and surely made it count. Alongside the Revelation Nation band, Ras-I served up neo-reggae feels with tracks Days and Nights, Crazy Over You (recorded with Runkus and Royal Blu), Know Herbs and his newest joint, Kingman Ting.
The festival culminates today with performances from Jesse Royal, Romain Virgo, Agent Saco, Masicka and Dexta Daps.
Founded by Synergy Productions, the festival debuted in 1978 at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay, St James. Its return comes 14 years after its last staging in St Ann.