Old Market Square // July 11-13
Big Names // Freddie McGregor, Jah Cutta
Local talent // Natalya, RasTamils, Jupiter Storm
Cost // $7 or $10 after 7pm; free for children 12 and under
Regular downtown parking rules apply
Against all odd, the Soca Reggae Festival marches forward.
On a weekend when many reggae and world music fans are in Birds Hill Park, organizers have managed to fill Old Market Square for the past eight years, and attracted such big names as Junior Kelly and this year's headliner, Jamaican reggae legend Freddie McGregor.
"It's amazing how we get totally different crowds," says DJ VIbesman, festival Entertainment Director and host of Island Vibes on CKUW 95.9 FM.
While he couldn't exactly say why that is, he was quick to point out the things that make this festival special.
"This is the ninth year and keeping it small helped us manage it a little better," he explains. "Also we wanted to do something festival-like but in a Caribbean format. [Winnipeg] was missing that and there market was there.
"We're slowly bringing in bigger and bigger names for the whole weekend," Vibesman continues, "that way if we have to cancel one night due to weather, we still have the Sunday night show.”
He adds that if the festival does get rained out, organizers have a backup plan to move everything indoors.
Jah Cutta, the other headliner, hails from Montreal and has built a following by touring more than other Canadian reggae bands, especially in Winnipeg where he is a festival favourite.
There will also be plenty of local artists performing, including reggae/dancehall artist Natalya, who opened for Beenie Man a few months ago, and festival newcomers RasTamils.
"[The festival] helps give them an audience and usually from this venue they get other gigs," Vibesman says. "It helps everyone in the Caribbean community."
Other artists on the bill include Cool Runnings Band, Idrissa and the Peacemakers, and The Paradize Band.
“We have the lighter family music, the reggae and calypso earlier in the day,” Vibesman explains, “and then we get heavier into the night with hardcore dancehall and then headliners last.”
As always, there will be a beer garden, along with Caribbean food and clothing vendors, hot dog carts, and ice cream trucks.
A New Bands Showcase, featuring emerging local artists Jupiter Storm and R&B/Soul singer Keisha Booker, has been added to the Saturday afternoon lineup.
"It's really beautiful to see young musicians playing original songs. These are artists to watch for in the next five years."
The Exclusive Mini Car Show is another new attraction that takes place on site Sunday afternoon from noon until 5pm.
"We're trying to get more people to come to Old Market Square between noon and 4pm on Saturday and Sunday," Vibesman notes. "That's what we're trying to focus on for the next few years."
Starting at 6pm Friday night, the music never stops with sets from DJ Bunny, DJ Juice, DJ Massive, DJ Vibesman, and Bubba B the MC.