Reggae on the River 2015: Happy Reggae!!! (Review & Photos)

Happy Reggae!!!

Happy Reggae!!!

During the summer of 2015, the non-profit Mateel Community Center went above and beyond to define what “Happy Reggae” means to thousands and thousands of individuals from around the world. The annual trek to French’s Camp in Southern Humboldt County is not for the weak, it’s not for the timid, it’s for those who wish to experience the love, unity, and power the one and only Reggae on the River can provide. The invisible neon sign that flashed bright in my eyes was too real to miss. It said:

Welcome Home Rogue Agent.

Your Family and Friends are all here.

Happy Reggae!!!

As the 101 winds down through the heart of the redwoods, French’s Camp sits within it’s own little world. The moment you turn onto the road that takes you to Bob Marley Blvd, your heart picks up the beat. Gazing over the land, excitement screaming through the air, the mind begins to wander, and the experience begins.

Nestled in it's own little world, Reggae awaits you.

Nestled in it’s own little world, Reggae on the River awaits you.

I had a bad knee this year at Reggae. Not sure what I did to it, all I know is that it was really lame and had been giving me problems for months. So naturally, the first thing I noticed and remembered once onsite was the Pedicab People Movers.

These guys and girls were active, happy, and ready to ride you from Admissions to South Beach or anywhere in between! Ingenuity and creativity get mad props from me and my crew, so we hopped aboard a cabbie and made our way into Reggae.

Thursday was HOT and the river was low. Fires were scattered around the area and the drought that California never seems to be able to get out of had dried everything out. Outdoor showers were up and running onsite to help the people cool off, but real relief didn’t seem to show itself until the evening hours closed in and the music on the main stage started to take off.

My crew and I were making the rounds, snapping the pics, and having a great time breaking in the weekend as Hirie, Fortunate Youth, and Pablo Moses performed Thursday night to a hungry, energetic crowd.

Hirie had us all feelin' Irie Thursday night.

Hirie had us all feelin’ Irie Thursday night.

As a photojournalist I find myself observing, looking for things that make my wheels turn and my memories last. Sometimes while I’m doing that, people come up and talk to me. Which turns into the experience of making musical history.

For example, I specifically remember on Thursday night when I was backstage with my crew, looking for water. They (security,) wouldn’t let us back to the Artist area where the water and tea is housed like they did the previous year, and we apparently didn’t have the correct wrist bands to get into the Press Tent either (where there was also water and chairs.)

Dan Kelly of Fortunate Youth shows off a big bud of Cat Piss to the crowd courtesy of fellow photog Kevin “EagleEye” Cornelius.

So as we stood there and tried to figure out where we could go to actually have a place to sit down, hydrate, and chill with peeps backstage for the weekend, the lead singer of Fortunate Youth (Dan Kelly,) walks up, looks at us holding our cameras, and says “Hey guys, you should just go for it tonight! Get on stage, break the rules, really go for it! I mean, why not? That’s what we’re here for! Just don’t trip over anything.” Then without another word, off he slips up to the stage to set things a light. We started hooting and hollering with joy! Reggae had officially begun.

Now, for all of you out there wondering what all the fuss is about, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… the only way to capture the full experience at Reggae on the River is to camp there… and by “camp there” I mean get there as early as possible and leave only when you have to! If you plan it and get there as soon as the buzzer rings, you get first dibs on the best camp zones. 8am on Thursday is as soon as you can get in, and people start lining up super early, so don’t be afraid to buy that 4-day ticket next year and show up with bells on!

Mystic Lion flying high! UNITY

Mystic Lion flying high!

Trust me, you’ll be so glad on Friday morning when you wake up and realize you’re all situated! You’ll see other peeps rolling in all frantic looking for a spot to camp, not being able to find a place to park close, and then having to lug their gear in. It happens, TRUST ME… but only if you’re late!

So again the key here people is                 —> Thursday! <— Arrive at Reggae on Thursday and get that camp dialed in early! (It will make  your whole experience that much better!!)

Friday showed up in a matter of hours. Lots of things to be excited about for Friday! Still hot, but not as hot… and the breeze picked up a little, so everyone was happy and ready to have a fantastic day. I was looking forward to some booty shaking during Cham‘s dancehall fyah, but I had heard Protoje didn’t make it and Don Carlos was filling in… I LOVE DON!!!

"I love you, but Jah love you more…" ~ Don Carlos

“I love you, but Jah love you more…” ~ Don Carlos

The musical genres that spanned the lineup at ROTR 2015 gave me the impression that the Veterans of Reggae and the new generation of Reggae Lovers came together and figured out a happy medium between roots, rock, world, reggae, & dancehall this year. It was inspiring to me, to know that this small community of people that have been working to expand the message of Reggae Music all these years were still coming together and working forward in open acceptance and with the power of love and unity in their hearts.

Back to the Pit: Team Rogue Agent Photo captured some powerful images on Friday night, including Katchafire, Collie Buddz, Don Carlos, Cham, & thousands of Reggae Family having the time of their life… but I think the females were more interested in what that bad boy Cham was laying down: some seriously sultry, sexy, dirty, little dancehall beats and vox that I can only describe as #CrotchGrabber.

Selassie Souljah Salute

Cham: Selassie Souljahs Salute!!

Bless up Dub Cowboy. He pulled us all down to South Beach on Friday night after Cham left the masses in a Dancehall Pandemonium. The after hours dancehall stage was the biggest and most supported I have EVER seen it, cool lights and effects were rocking, and there was even beer and tacos on tap! WHOA!! Definitely the biggest thumbs up to late night recreation I have ever witnessed at Reggae. Like I said earlier, people came together this year… and listened. Next year is going to go even further!! Give Thanks Dub Cowboy for all you do for I n  I n I n I!!!

Dub Cowboy & Rogue Agent: ROTR 2015 go BOOM!!!

Dub Cowboy & Rogue Agent: ROTR 2015 go BOOM!!!

Saturday is always my favorite day at Reggae. Everyone has been there for a good amount of time, people are relaxed, yet motivated, and ready to keep this party moving forward! There were many acts I didn’t want to miss on Saturday this year, notably Emmanuel Jal, Ce’Cile, and Tarrus Riley with Blak Soil.

I had spotted Stephen Marley and Jo Mersa (his son,) hanging out backstage Friday night, checking out Cham‘s moment in the spotlight, and I was really looking forward to both of their performances later the next day, with Stephen headlining the evening. It was kind of cool to see them as “part of the crowd”, laying low, and feeling the full joy of the vibe Reggae on the River provides. As I walked by, I told Stephen “Really looking forward to your performance tomorrow night, Brother,” to which he replied “Yeah?!!” 😉

Peace, Love, & Unity!

Emmanual Jal: Peace, Love, & Unity!

Saturday: Emmanuel Jal‘s performance set the bar… HIGH! This is what a show is all about, this is what being a performer is all about!! His connection with the art, his connection with the heart, the people could feel it all around… and the sound. His Sound hits you so deeply. It was truly incredible. What an experience beyond what I had hoped for, what an experience for this artist to come from such a troubled past to such a bright future. Dreams still come true people, you just got to believe in them with all your might.

Ghetto Youths International showcased Skip Marley, Black Am I, Jo Mersa, & Wayne Marshall Saturday afternoon at ROTR 2015 and in my opinion, they really mashed up the place! I’ve watched these performers grow over the years (save Skip, this was my first seeing him,) and each time their lyrical, vocal, and musical skills keep getting better and better. Good show for sure from the GYI Crew… spiced things up just right for the next act: Bad Gyal Ce’Cile.

Rude Gyal Run Tings!

Rude Gyal Ce’Cile Run Tings!

While Cham brought it out for the rude gyals, now Ce’Cile was bringing it out for the rude boys! Talk about #CrotchGrabber, I mean goodness!! But you have to give credit where credit is due… she’s got a burnin’ fyah! Bumping, grinding, and drawing on the electricity from the crowd, Ce’Cile tore up the stage with primal dancehall beats. Showing us a treat, she pulled up some dude on stage and made him dance with her and the other booty girl. At that moment, all the couples in the house took a step closer to each other… it was that hot! And par for the course, poor boy didn’t know what to do!! Ha ha!!!

Then it was time for Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil… an act that mesmerized me two years back on the exact same stage. Dean Fraser is a saxophone extraordinaire and really loves performing music with Tarrus. You can see it in the every way… and it’s absolutely awesome! Singy Singy’s voice has yet to be matched, live or in the studio. And that, coupled with strong, rhythmic patterns of modern roots reggae, Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil clearly portray to the observer exactly what Reggae music is all about: Love, Life, & Unity.

Singy Singy catching some air at Reggae!

Singy Singy catching some air at Reggae!

Up and up they went… the VIBES! All coming to the climax of Stephen Marley headlining Saturday night in what was one of the most electrifying performances of the weekend. I’ve seen and photographed almost all of Bob‘s children, but the one that stands out to me as being the most like Bob, as looking the most like Bob, as sounding the most like Bob… is Stephen. What’s even more amazing is that way before Stephen even took to performing and recording his own music, he was producing and writing music for others. Not looking for fame, not looking for fortune, but looking to do what his father did: Bring reggae music to the world.

Sadly, I had to leave French’s Camp on Sunday afternoon, before the end of the event. Members of my team were still on site as the last light left the bowl Sunday evening, but I n I had to boogie on down the road… mainly so I n I could make it again next year. Cuz you see, these photos and words don’t always pay for themselves fiscally… but they do bring me solace in those quiet moments of the night when I wonder if anything is worth it or if anything I ever do makes a difference in this world…

Irie Roots Reggae Vibes from the son of Bob Marley.

Irie Roots Reggae Vibes from the son of Bob Marley.

Then I think, of course it does. And what you do matters too. All of it. That’s what makes this world of ours so special: Us.

So please, as you go about your every day life in your every day world, take a moment here and there, remember what it feels like to be in a place where the top three things on everybody’s mind are peace, love, and unity. And then give thanks. Give Thanks For Life.

I’ve been all around this world, I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs, and my constant purveyor of positivity is always Reggae Music. Thank you Mateel Community Center for the generations of love and wisdom. Thank you Mateel Community Center for accepting all of us as your own, and loving every single moment of it. And Thank You Mateel Community Center for Reggae on the River.

General Manager Justin Creelin being "Blessed Up" by the entire ROTR Crew.

General Manager Justin Creelin being “Blessed Up” by the entire ROTR Crew.

NOW: Sit back, relax, and take a few minutes to click through all the images captured by Rogue Agent Photo at ROTR 2015 on the Official Reggae on the River Facebook Page HERE!

To my Team at Rogue Agent Photo:

I n I Give BIG Thanks to Jason for all your love, determination, and power to help the world realize a better way of life through Reggae Music.

Once again… Rogue Agent haffa seh… ♥ BOOM ♥

Forward Ever, Backward Never!!!


Joe McLaren

Rogue Agent Photo

About Rogue Agent

Spreading awareness to the masses in the form of emotional imagery, our hope is for the viewer to feel the power of the moment that took our breath away. That is why we do what we YOU can FEEL it!!! Professional Photography for Live Performances, Portraits, Festivals, Weddings, Concerts, Portfolios, Events, and Everything Else You Can Dream Of. Serving Northern California, Oregon, and Beyond... Booking: Please Call 541-631-8774 or Send An Email To: and/or
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