Reggae on the River 2017: Love The Life You Live

REGGAE ON THE RIVER 2017: LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE by Joe McLaren / Rogue Agent Photo

“The secret to a good show is not the music… music is an integral part; I’d put it at number two. What would be number one? Community. The sense of community… If you can create that magic among a large group of people for a long period of time… ideally several nights, that creates a sense of community.” ~ Doug Green, founding board member of the Mateel Community Center and one of the creators of Reggae on the River.

Doug Green at ROTR ’13

August 3rd, 2017, marked the 33rd year for the Mateel Community Center’s world renowned Reggae on the River at French’s Camp in Southern Humboldt county, California. I’ve been lucky enough to attend this beautiful festival for many years now and know that it has seen lots of changes. This year what I noticed more than ever before was that feeling of Community.

People seem to be getting smarter and starting to care more about other people than they use to. They are realizing there’s more to life than what Babylon has shown them. People are learning that it’s ok to give love to someone you don’t know, it’s ok to help a person in need without getting a reward, and it’s better to live the life you love and love the life you live.

That’s why the words of the late, great Doug Green echoed so deep in my ears as I put my fingers to the keys on this festival review. Reggae on the River is about Community and always has been. Many things have changed, many have stayed the same, and many from this view are for the better: Our youth are wiser, our Community is stronger, and together we will change the world. This isn’t about the lineup and never will be. This is about us coming together as brothers and sisters to chant down Babylon.

Now if you’re with me, let’s get on to the ites and highlights of Reggae ’17 as witnessed by the one and only: Rogue Agent Photo

French’s Camp

I love getting to French’s Camp as early as possible on Thursday. Every year it makes it so much nicer to have that extra day to get camp set up, figure out where everybody’s at, and start the party sooner!

Kabaka Pyramid & Walshy Fire were at the top of the list for tonight. After things got settled and the vibes started flowing, I made my way down to the bowl just in time to catch some of my favorite performers, Rocker T with 7th Street Band. If ya dun know di Tru Ganjaman I n I seh ya best start learnin’! Seen?? The jams were tight, the mood was right, and the love was infectious. Great start to my musical weekend fo sho!!

Green Grass and Shade In The Concert Bowl

Made the rounds pon di grounds after that first vibes session. Dusk was starting to kick in and as the heat began to fade away and fire began to heat up. The Woven Roots package was up next and then things would really start to take off. Rumor had it that Kabaka and Walshy were going to recreate the Accurate Mix Tape live on stage and there was no way I was going to miss that!

South Beach

Traveled down to South Beach a few times this Reggae. The river was big, bright, and beautiful. Everyone was very excited to have the Eel so full and refreshing. Floaties, coolers, and half naked bodies lined the river beaches. Tents, teepees, and reggae as far as the eye could see. The weather was just about perfect the entire weekend, a little on the hotter side, but that’s how we like it. And when you stopped for a minute, paid attention, and looked around you could see exactly what French’s Camp was all about: Family.

I started bringing my bike last year to make life easier and boy does it ever. I can make it to South Beach and back to camp at North Beach in 5 minutes!

Walshy Fire & Kabaka Pyramid: Accurate!

And it was true… or should I say Accurate? Kabaka Pyramid and Walshy Fire lit up the stage with pure charisma! The way they worked the crowd and played off each other’s vibes was amazing. Energetic showmanship combined with unique voctacular skills set to beats dropped by a professional entertainer fresh on the decks? Yes Please and Thank You! If you missed seeing this epic musical collaboration live then please overstand one thing: Thursday Night at Reggae on the River A GWAN!!!

Nattali Rize

Friday arrived and things kept moving right along. Vibes were overflowing with goodness everywhere I went. The faces I saw had relaxed smiles that spoke of good times being had. Having witnessed Winston Jarrett‘s act once before, I knew he put on a good show and made sure to catch him on the river. Time started to move faster as the weekend crept on and before I knew it Nattali Rize was on stage hustlin’, bustlin’, and making herself heard to the masses.

Perfect Giddimani Go BOOM!

Day 2 at Reggae ’17 was a complete blast, but you know when I realized it was perfect? When Perfect Giddimani took the stage by storm! It was my first catching this legendary performer live and I was completely blown away!! Give Thanks for mashing up di place, Perfect!! FYAH!!!

Kabaka Pyramid & the Bebble Rockers, Stick Figure, and Assassin aka Agent Sasco were set to close out the evening, however, word was that the Bebble Rockers were a no show with visa issues and that Kabaka was going to perform with Yaadcore, a DJ that’s been making big waves in the current roots revival scene alongside the likes of Protoje, Chronixx, and of course Kabaka Pyramid.

Stick Figure

Stick Figure is a band that first caught my attention at Cali Roots 2013. Although I was surprised to see their name on the lineup this year at Reggae, their “hooks and catches” style of Cali-Reggae Pop had the younger crowd on their dancing feet asking for more, but their energy and showmanship was no match for Friday headliner Assassin aka Agent Sasco.

Assassin aka Agent Sasco

Dancehall is a style of reggae music that I absolutely love. The tempo, the urgency, the pure party feel, the let’s get down, dirty, and grind our booties vibe, all of it makes for a really entertaining show on stage and in the bowl. Assassin helped the Reggae Massive lose themselves for a little while in an atmosphere of frenzied, upbeat chunes! Which lead us all straight to the afterparty down at the South Beach Dancehall and to Center Beach’s Latenight Dub Sessions, hosted by Cloud 9. Sometimes I think that it’s these late night party vibes that really bring you back to your roots and teach you life lessons. They remind of you of why you’re on the river in the first place: to forget your troubles and have fun.

South Beach Dancehall

My late night experience this year at Reggae was quite varied. South Beach Dancehall the first two nights and then Center Beach Dub Sessions on Saturday night, which were completely different vibes. I’m very thankful for all of these moments, but have to say that Saturday night there was “No Bad Vibes” in the Cloud 9 domain. I found myself floating around in the darkness, supported by pockets of electronic air, bass blurbs, and vocal whips that transformed my consciousness into a semi dream state, allowing me to realize visions of musical and internal bliss. I had put my camera away and decided to play, not fade away. Thanks goes out to Jay & Twiggy for helping me complete the circle and move forward in a solid direction. Like Messenjah Selah seh… “No Bad Vibes!”

Nkulee Dude

Saturday was upon us and some big names were on the schedule for day 3. There were a few artists I was really excited about since I hadn’t seen them before, and since the weekend was already half over, it was time to soak up all those irie vibes. Mighty Mystic & the Hard Roots Movement opened things up, followed by Culture featuring Kenyatta Hill, Nkulee Dube, Ibibio Sound Machine, Warrior King & Rootz Warriors, Junior Kelly, J Boog, and headliners Slightly Stoopid.

Kenyatta Hill and the Blessed Herb

Culture featuring Kenyatta Hill‘s performance was absolutely stunning. The heart he exuded in his presence, the fire that burned as the words left his tongue, the realism of Rastafari Culture and the lessons they’ve taught Babylon for decades… all of this was on stage in front of me. Completely phenomenal! You can be born into a legacy, and you can be handed the torch to carry on, but building that legend forward is entirely your own mission… and Kenyatta Hill is just that: Legendary!

After that, no one brought the vibes the rest of the day for me like Culture did. Nkulee Dube and Junior Kelly are a treat to see and always put on a great show. Warrior King was on point as well, even brought out his wife and new born baby, introducing them and serenading them in front of the massive. J Boog, let’s do it again! Always solid and humble, with a twinkle in his eye,  yet nothing stood out for me as much as Kenyatta Hill… until Slightly Stoopid lit up that half ounce joint!

Rogue Agent Photo Gets Handed a Giant Spliff courtesy of Slightly Stoopid

Talk about right place at the right time!! There I was, being a Rogue Agent in the photo pit like usual, and as I am capturing Slightly Stoopid‘s Kyle McDonald lighting up one of the fattest spliffs I had ever seen, he takes a couple rips off of it and hands it down to the videographer in front of me, but he’s too busy doing the live video feed and hands it right to me… so I get the honor of taking the first few puffs off this massive joint before it was passed to the left hand side. Give thanks to David Wilson and Lee Abel for capturing this moment in time for me! Documenting the history of reggae music has so many blessings. I n I feel very lucky to be a part of it. Selah.

Rogue Agent Photo Puffs on a Giant Spliff courtesy of Slightly Stoopid

Sunday was the day I was looking forward to most at Reggae on the River 2017. I mean really? Marla Brown, Dezarie, and Lutan Fyah back to back to back all on the same day?? NICENESS!! Not to mention the Bob Marley Tribute being brought to us by Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, and Cherine Anderson with Sly & Robbie backing everything up.

Sundays on the river are always the most memorable for me. I always try and slow down time, especially in the morning. Dissecting every second left in search of the perfect ending to an amazing weekend, looking back on the moments that took my breath away, and seeking the next step: how to take it all back with me when I leave and continue to chant down Babylon.

Marla Brown

Let’s start my Sunday at Reggae ’17 with one of my favorite sets of the weekend: the beautifully charming, ultra talented, jaw dropping performance by Marla Brown. When I heard this was her debut at Reggae on the River, it was like a dream. A dream for us, a dream for her, and a dream we all overstand. Learning from the great works of her late father, Dennis Brown, Marla showed the reggae massive what this life was meant to be and how to go about living it. You live it, you breathe it, you feel it, you know it, and you show it. Teaching the masses the great lessons of life is not an easy task, but if you have your heart fully in your works, it shines through every time. Give Thanks Marla Brown. You are a bright star with wonderful energy and a very fine example for the youth of today. Respect!


Dezarie is an Empress. Her sound is like the gospel of reggae music for me. Real talk, real walk, real love. I discovered how much I loved her before I discovered how much I loved Midnite. These artists have invited me into their world, they have shown me around, and they have made it very clear it’s all up to me… up to us: To learn. So I made sure to engulf every single vibration exuded from the stage during Dezarie and Ron Benjamin‘s performance at Reggae on the River 2017. I hadn’t seen Ron since before Midnite broke up, I hadn’t seen Dezarie since 2010, and I wasn’t going to miss even one second of their magical presence.

Dezarie and Ron Benjamin

After church was over, we all kept shouting “One more. One More. One MORE! ONE MORE!!” The band had already put down their instruments, one of the MCs had already come out to say it was over, but Ron couldn’t deny our energy: he grabbed his bass, plugged it back in, and hit the “e” string with one of his amazing smiles as if to say all in one look “Thank you for your love. I love you too. Here’s one more!” The audience roared… and then we roared louder when we all realized they were being told no, regardless of our pleas for an encore. That’s when I decided to go backstage and try to say hi.

Ron Benjamin

Before I had a chance to find either of them, he found me. Someone was grabbing my shoulder while I was looking the other way, I turn around, and it’s Ron Benjamin. I felt like my whole face turned into one big grin and I gave him a huge hug. Then he says to me “I remember you. I remember you!” and I’m like “You remember me? I remember you. I remember You!!” He smiled and laughed. It was one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, and it’s because Reggae on the River exists that it even happened. I am eternally grateful to the Mateel Community Center for creating the community known as French’s Camp and will continue to help and promote their message of love, unity, and peace for as long as I live.

Burton Eubank and Cherine Anderson

All good things must come to an end, and when the end does comes, good things are bound to follow… especially at Reggae on the River! Cherine Anderson is a flawless performer with the poise and grace of a superstar. She even picked out my favorite photo pit security personnel, Burton Eubank, took him on stage and proceeded to sing and dance with him. He so deserved every second of it too. Burton holds that photo pit down!

Cherine Anderson, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths

The closing acts at Reggae ’17 were carried out with the highest of vibes, the utmost musical skill, and the warmest love. Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt sounded so good! The treat was in the end though when all three Queens took the stage together with Sly & Robbie and mashed up some Bob Marley classics. I felt time slipping away as the night crept to a close. I was exhausted, my body was sore, but I felt thankful and complete. The right place, the right time, the right love. It’s something you can experience too… but only if you attend the best reggae festival in the world at French’s Camp in Humboldt, California: Reggae on the River!!!

MCC General Manager, Justin Crellin, Feeling The Love During Reggae on the River 2017 Closing Ceremonies

Please click HERE to see, like, comment, and share all of the images Rogue Agent Photo captured at Reggae on the River 2017!!!

Special Thanks goes out to Justin, Charity, Kaati, Justine, Julia, Dub Cowboy, Mystic Lion, Pure Anywear, Cornerstone, Jason, Trevor, Abel, and Burton. Without each of your love, encouragement, and contributions I would never have been able to enjoy any of these life changing experiences. I’ll be holding the torch going forward and hope you are all there with me when we reach Zion.

Nuff Love, More Respect, and Massive Thanks to all you Kings and Queens. Looking forward to seeing you all next year as we build it all back up again!

Reggae on the River for Life!!!

Joe McLaren

Rogue Agent Photo

Be Happy!! See You All At Reggae on the River 2018!!!

About Rogue Agent

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