Reggae on the River: “We tried”

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By Molly Freedenberg

Remember way back when a group of disillusioned Burners decided to challenge the status quo by forming their own version of the Burning Man Organization (BORG)? They called it BORG2, and they planned to unseat BORG 1 – or at least inspire a change in its art funding policies – through their “anything you can do, I can do better” approach. Thing is, BORG 2 just couldn’t quite get its act together, and the project unceremoniously fell apart.

Well, it seems the reggae world is now hosting its own version of the BORG2 madness, where fun-fur-wearing desert rats are replaced by dreadlocked dubsteppers. On the left? Reggae on the River, the penultimate reggae festival of longtime repute that seems to be almost as much a mecca for the steel drum crowd as burning man is for DJ Lorin lovers. On the right? Reggae Rising, the BORG2 of this particular conflict, led by former Reggae on the River contributors. The issue? Both want to throw a reggae festival. At the same place. On the same day.

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I first caught wind of the conflict while putting together our summer guide to fairs and festivals. I couldn’t figure out how two reggae festivals -- one featuring the Roots, Shaggy, Eeek-A-Mouse, and Angelique Kidjo (RotR), and one featuring several Marleys, Sly and Robbie, and Tanya Stephens (RR) – could be held at the same time. So I called the organizers. Reps from Reggae Rising insisted there was only one festival happening at Dimmick Ranch the weekend of August 3, and it was theirs. But reps for Reggae on the River had a different story: that a competing group had applied for their permit and, through some kind of misunderstanding or oversight, had been granted it.

At the time, it had yet to be seen whose festival would reign.

Since then, it seems the underdog has won. Reggae Rising starts this weekend. And Reggae on the River has the following posted on their website:

Due to irreconcilable differences between the Mateel and the previous producer of Reggae on the River® and the landowner where Reggae on the River® was held in 2006 the Mateel Community Center has unfortunately had to cancel Reggae on the River® for 2007. Look for the return of Reggae on the River® in 2008.

Is this a good thing? Maybe the Reggae Rising people have a legitimate beef with the organizers of Reggae on the River, or with what the festival has become. (After all, does Shaggy really count as reggae?) Or maybe a couple of pissed off ex-coworkers have hurt a worthwhile music festival institution for petty reasons? I’m not sure, as the closest I get to reggae these days is accidentally turning to Sublime on the radio. (Sidenote: Would you people stop playing Sublime so goddamned often so I can start liking them again? Geez.)

All I know is that the whole conflict seems a bit out of line with the whole reggae jah-love thing. Silly hippies.

Read all the complicated documentation of the dispute here, or a good explanation of it in normal people language here or here.