The Wailers at Summer Camp
Music festivals and shows have blossomed in many ways over the years. Technological developments combined with our generation’s desire for more lights, more screens, more visuals has exploded into a colorful and entertaining experience. I am grateful for how innovative putting on live music has become, but sometimes it’s just nice to get back to the basics. You know, reminiscent of a simpler time where live music was less about the flashy electronics and more about instrumental and vocal music quality, the interactions of the performer with the audience, and the intermingling vibes within the crowd. This is why The Wailers proved to be one of my favorite performances at Summer Camp Music Festival this year.
With a roster chock full of amazing artists ranging from bluegrass, to funk, to dubstep, to good old jam music, and beyond, there were many anticipated shows. The Wailers played at 3:30 on Friday afternoon. The sun was shining down on a beautiful 75 degree day and the mood was relaxed yet excited as The Wailers hit the stage. As soon as the first note was played, positive vibrations began to spread through the crowd.
The warm rays of sun kissed my face as I stood in the front row and was serenaded by goose-bump inducing “Africa Unite,” “One Love,” “Three Little Birds,” “Jammin’,” “No Woman No Cry,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Exodus,” “Punky Reggae Party,” and Tina Turner cover “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” just to name a few.
Lead vocalist Dwayne Anglin and backup vocalist Cegee Victory delivered an energetic and heartfelt performance. Anglin’s movement and voice felt appropriate and pleasingly similar to Bob Marley’s. Drummie Zep provided impeccable driving beats on the drums and guitarist Audley Chisholm’s funky one-drop reggae notes flowed in a way that made it impossible to dance.
Bass player Aston Barrett, one of Bob Marley’s most trusted confidants from Kingston, Jamaica, helps continue the authentic Rastafari culture, which is where The Wailers derive their inspiration. Keyboardist and highly regarded reggae musician Keith Sterling, also from Kingston, provided enjoyable melodies alongside Barrett’s bass lines.
A girl towards the front of the crowd held a sign proclaiming, “WE ARE ONE.” Every person within eyeshot was moving, hugging, twirling, smiling, laughing, coming together. Bob surely would have been proud to see his legacy being carried on and bringing joy to so many people.
As someone who was not yet born when Bob Marley passed away, I have always considered The Wailers to be the closest thing to seeing the complete Bob Marley and The Wailers I’ll be able to experience, just as I consider Further to be the closest thing to seeing the complete Grateful Dead. There we many like me, experiencing The Wailers live for one of the first times, as well as people of many other ages, some in their 50s and 60s, equally savoring the music that some had enjoyed when they were younger. We all joined collectively to share in the overpowering energy of togetherness and peace the lyrics and music brought us.
As The Wailers finished their hour long set, the transformation that took place over the crowd was palpable. There were smiles as far as the eye could see. People weren’t so pushy in the tight spots as they funnelled out of the area. The Wailers effectively carry on the message of their origins, and of Bob himself, and continue to be the reigning beacons of reggae music, yesterday and today.
As lead singer Anglin said when asked what it is about Bob Marley’s music that appeals to people, “It is enlightening. The thing about the music that I think is most appealing is its simplicity. This music is over 40 years old, but its message – whether it be political or social – has remained relevant throughout the years. Everyone can relate to what is being said. It encourages you to be a better person, and it takes you to a better place.”