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This was year two for Reggae Rise Up in Maryland at West Covington Park.  Last year I had a great line-up and to be honest I was not as hyped about this overall line-up.  However, I ended up being really surprised (in a good way) and the entire three day festival was amazing, even with the rain on Day 1. The venue, crowd, volunteers, security staff, crowd, photographers, crowd, was so good all weekend.  But let’s talk Day 1. It started off with Maryland trio Higher Education.  I have never heard them before and they really started the day off well.  Really enjoyed their reggae-fusion sound. For the first band on the first day, I was surprised at how many came in to see them.  The local crowd definitely showed up for them and the second act, another local band, Dale and the ZDubs.  I got meet and photograph them last year and hung out a little more this year.  Great guys and so much energy from Dale, Miles, Johan, Pat and Julian (Julian said I’m 30% base and 70% face LOL).  What great sound and what great performers. They are going to explode soon! 

Shortly before Vana Liya went on for her set she came out by the stage with her parents.  This was the first time her parents were ever seeing her perform in a festival like this.  Watching the joy in her parents faces made everyone’s day.  Her mother sat in the pit with her brother and sister, while her dad stayed out in the crowd, I think he wanted to get the full experience (and he did).  Vana has such an amazing voice and her band sounded so amazing.  The highlight of the performance, the day and possibly the whole festival is when K-Bong joined her on stage for the song they wrote together for Vana’s mom, Hey Mama.  Singing to her mom, there was not a dry eye to be found.  The happiness and joy in her Mama’s face said it all.  And you could see how proud her dad was smiling while watching her as the crowd was dancing around him.  I got to spend time with the entire family, they are amazing people! Part way through her set the clouds opened up, but it did not bother the crowd or Vana or her band. 

The Elovaters were next up, and I actually missed them because it was raining so hard.  But people talked about how great they sounded, no one cared about the rain.  Shwayze came to stage and put on a solid performance.  He has such a nice mix of hip-hop and a little bit of reggae for his “Surf Trap.” He had Tony Stern playing guitar for him, he killed it, so much fun watching him. Loved hearing "Buzzin’" and "Corona and Lime"!  Got to spend a few minutes with Shwayze and Tony backstage, very cool, down to earth guys. Iya Terra was next on stage, one of my favorite bands to watch and photograph.  Every time I see them they just get better and better and never the same performance.  What great performers, they truly love being on stage in front of the crowd, feeding off the love.  Such great vocals. And there is nothing like seeing the dreads flying all around on stage. Very cool when Scot and Cocoa from Stick Figure joined them on stage.

Pepper….what can I say about Pepper…They are true performers.  They played the whole Kona Town album to start off, very dope.  Not one person standing still watching them.  And it amazes how many little kids are there and singing right along with them.  Last up on the Vibe Stage was Tribal Seeds.  I have not seen them since before Covid, so very exited to finally see them again.  They did not disappoint on Friday night. I’d say one of the best performances of the night, but everyone was great.  The horns, the rhythms and the voices, so so good. The night was finished up on the Rise Up stage with Stick Figure.  I have seen Stick many times over the years, and I think this was their best performance I have seen and heard.  So so good all night long.  Best performance of the night!  I especially loved when the guys from Pepper and Elovators came on stage with them for "Smokin’ Love". They just bring so much energy and love to the stage, you can’t help but have smiles on faces and dance!

-One Love


Todd Judd

Photojournalist - Pennsylvania

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