Rebel Salute 2017 has come and gone so it's time for an in dept review of Tony Rebel's stage show, one of the absolute highlights in the Jamaican festival season.
Preparing for Rebel Salute, I re-read my how to party section on reggaetourist.com, making sure not to forget my own advise on how to survive a reggae stage show. Don't go too early because the big artists only come out late, bring warm clothes, don't drink too much or too early, eat soup, bring a chair, that kind of thing. In the end, we only sinned against our own rules by going in way too early (at 9pm) on Friday. We were just too excited.
On the menu 2 days of non stop live reggae with an impressive line-up. Taking it all in is like running a marathon: in the middle of the journey you meet the man with the hammer (meaning those moments at 5am when you really feel you cannot keep on your feet anymore) and at the end of it, standing in front of the stage at 10am on Sunday morning, you feel like you accomplished a great thing. In my review I won't discuss the individual artists performances (loved them all!) but I will look at Rebel Salute as a whole. There are several things set Rebel Salute apart from other Jamaican stage shows
1. The venue. Grizzly Plantation Cove is a huge open air venue right beside the ocean in Priory. You could walk around there all night, checking the stalls at the craft market, learning about ganja at the herb curb or enjoying healthy juices and food at the food market. Because the place is so huge, it never feels crowded. The venue has some of the best thick and lush grass I ever encountered in Jamaica and it doesn't get muddy even after quite some rainfall.
2. The professional sound and stage setup. The music coming from the stage is loud and crisp no matter where you are situated. The two big screens next to the stage and the ones on the control tower, make the stage action visible from all angles. A professional camera crew, including a drone, capture every detail of the action.
3. The performances. The amount of artists performing is impressive and the music is served in 20 to 30 minute segments. This time frame allows each artists to do a 'mini showcase' and it's a nice compromise between performing just one or two songs and an hour long showcase. Some patrons would rather see less artists on the bill playing longer showcases but not us: we like the concept.
3. The 'no alcohol no meat' policy. Part of the vision of promoting a healty lifestyle, no alcohol is allowed at the venue and the food is either vegetarian or seafood. There is, in fact, no official Rebel Salute bar where you can go for drinks. Everything on offer is provided for by independent vendors either at the food stands or mobile vendors walking around.
4. The Herb Curb. As a rasta show, Rebel Salute has always been associated with the holy herb and with the Herb Curb it's taking the active promotion of the health and economic benifits a step further. A series of about 10 stalls make up the Curb and all kind of marjuana based products, plus the real thing, are on offer. Here's the herb enthousiast's chance to sample that award winning 'mango berry' kutchie. On Saturday there was a symposium with talks on all things ganja but going there would have meant being at the venue way too early to make it through the night.
5. The ticket price. Most talk on the street and on the radio in the days preceding Rebel Salute concerned the ticket price which some people felt was too high for Jamaican standards. Tickets at the gate are JMD 5000 for two days. Visitors to European or US reggae stage shows are of course used to even higher prices but it is true that a Jamaican entry price for a Stage Show would be more in the range of JMD 1500 / JMD 2500. Then again, Rebel Salute has way more facilities than a typical stage show: the sound is better, there's live video and there are clean toilets. From a international perspective, I believe nobody can blame Tony Rebel for setting up a top notch reggae stage show in Jamaica, home of Reggae, when the rest of the world is doing the same. As a matter of fact, he should be applauded for it.
It was good being back at Salute after four years. Check the pics to get a feel of the event.