Scorching performances: Jamaica Rum Festival ends on a high note

Freddie McGregor could do no wrong. (Photos: Kevin Ferguson/ BUZZ)

Though he’s not much of a rum drinker, Freddie McGregor’s vocals are just as smooth and satisfying as a good rum blend. Pair this with a Sunday evening, and you’ll get the paragon of retro, chill and groovy vibes, which is exactly what unfolded on the final day of the 2020 Jamaica Rum Festival (JRF) at Hope Gardens in St Andrew.

The Big Ship principal was welcomed by screams from the 6000-strong crowd, and he never dropped the ball in his expansive set which catered to the ladies, “rude boys” and throwback lovers.

Sea of pepper lights

These two were lost in the music.

Smartphones resembled a sea of pepper lights as patrons documented McGregor’s live take on reggae classics I See It In You, Push Comes to Shove, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely and Big Ship. When he got to Let Him Try, the audience claimed authorship, belting every word of the chorus acapella style, which filled the lawns at the venue. Folks, young and old, were getting down too, skanking, slow-whining and even dropping some ska moves in McGregor’s ode to the genre. 

With Reggae Month recently concluding, Freddie also paid homage to his late friend Dennis Brown, igniting the crowd with Here I Come and Revolution

Capleton delivered a fiery performance.

McGregor could do no wrong with a three-song segment for the ladies, effortlessly charming his way with And So I’ll Wait for You, Luther Vandross’ cover of Always and Forever and Brandy by The O’jays.

Roaring applause

Patrons commended McGregor with roaring applause, and the singer, too, did some saluting of his own.

“Tonight was a wonderful show. I’m really pleased with the production that is here tonight,” McGregor told BUZZ. “Everything is first class, from the stage, the system, the settings… I think these people have done a marvellous job.”

Ky-Mani Marley captivated the audience.

Also getting the crowd in a frenzy was reggae and dancehall’s resident fire man, Capleton, who delivered on his promise to bring his energy and positivity to the JRF stage.

Capleton unleashed the hits back-to-back and had the crowd waving everything from flyers, rags, phones and mugs, without having to sing half of any song. The crowd rivalled his energy for the most part, as he dropped tunes like Or Wah, Fire Time (there was actual fire), Slew Dem, Bad Mind A Go Kill Dem, Jah Jah City and Small World. The queens were not forgotten, as ‘King Shango’ also dropped In Her Heart, Hunt Yuh and Lock Up.

Enchanting tracks

The ladies were a centrepiece of Ky-mani Marley’s set, which, though challenged by audio issues, had fruitful points with the enchanting numbers Get High, Rule My Heart, Rasta Love (which features Protoje) and his father’s (Bob Marley) Is This Love and Who the Cap Fit.

See highlights from day two of the Jamaica Rum Festival in the gallery below.

Cocoa Tea was faced with band issues but still had the crowd dancing and singing to his rich catalogue. The 60-year-old was dancing too, touching his elbows and knees between favourites like Young Lover, Good Life, She Loves Me Now, You’re Gonna Leave Me and I Lost My Sonia. His rub-a-dub segment of R&B records like The Temptations’ My Girl, Johnny Gill’s My My My and Air Supply’s pop number Here I Am, was well-received. He also toasted to Gregory Isaacs, performing Love Overdue, Number One and Night Nurse.

The day’s youngest performer, Indie Allen, held his own with a mature performance, spewing messages of peace in his performance of Wild Wild West and the dub-heavy Jah Love. He also wooed female patrons with flawless falsettos on tracks like Catch A Fire and turned it up a notch on Sugar Daddy, which accompanied sultry moves from dancer Inspire.