The 28th Annual JazzReggae Festival at UCLA celebrated culture and diversity in Los Angeles, featuring a plethora of craft, cuisine and visual artists complementing the festival’s musical performances. Sunday’s Jam Day brought with it high energy and a sense of camaraderie between the musicians and the festival-goers.
UCLA student band The Wes Coast took the stage as the day’s first performer, bringing a lot of energy and excitement as the winners of the JazzReggae Battle of the Bands contest. The group injected energy into the show for an explosive start that got the crowd prepared for a day filled with appreciation for the UCLA community. Opening for heavyweights, including Aloe Blacc and Snoop Dogg, The Wes Coast has come a long way since its debut at Fowler Out Loud in February 2013. Lead singer, Wes Miller ended the band’s set proclaiming his performance to be, “the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time.”
Sarah Reich took the stage and showed off material from the Tap Music Project. Joined by UCLA’s Thelonius Monk Ensemble, Reich and her team tap-danced to various jazz pieces, offering a fresh take on artistic expression in a festival environment. She added intrigue to her show when guests Lee How and Nico Rubio joined her on stage for a rap about UCLA, including lines referencing Gayley Avenue.
“We are percussionists … if you close your eyes: it’s music. We want to perform at festivals like JazzReggae so people see it as music,” Reich said. “It is a great way to express my musicality.”
When Georgia Anne Muldrow came onstage, she softened the tone, giving festival-goers a breather, playing a mellower set after a high-energy start to the day. Her mother and a group of old friends, whom she considers family, joined Muldrow on stage during her performance.
“I’m not saying this because I’m her mother, but artist to artist, of all the performers I’ve met in my life, (Muldrow) is one of the most authentic performers,” said Rickie Byars Beckwith, Muldrow’s mother.
Following Muldrow’s family affair, Syd tha Kyd, lead singer of The Internet, came on the stage.
“I’ve seen my cousin perform here and I saw Erykah Badu here when I 14, and now I’ve come full circle,” she said.
Syd tha Kid performed differently than expected, playing a soulful set with a full live band, rather than DJing as she has been known to do.
Aloe Blacc came to the stage, bringing with him positivity and inspiration, adhering to the thread of a feel-good atmosphere set by the other artists. His stage banter was appropriate for students, telling tales of his successes and failures, and life lessons. At one point, Blacc told the story of how he was laid off from his job, which led to him pursuing music. He said he likes to think of that as a time when he was promoted to CEO of his life. At the end of the set he informed students to “choose to love more” as his wife, Maya Jupiter, who joined Blacc on stage, honored the victims of the May 23 University of California, Santa Barbara school shooting.
Finally, Snoop Dogg played a crowd-pleasing set, everything from his biggest hits such as “Gin and Juice,” to covers of Tupac, Joan Jett and ending with Bob Marley’s “Jammin.’” During “Young, Wild and Free,” he made the audience put up peace signs as the crowd joined him in singing. Snoop Dogg initiated a lot of crowd interaction throughout his set, getting the audience to sing and dance with him. He also threw CDs into the ecstatic crowd who were all too excited to get his attention.
All the musicians who performed Sunday relayed their enthusiasm to be part of a diverse lineup and participate on the first day of a festival known for the excitement it brings. Since all the artists incorporated aspects of reggae music into their sets, they gave insight into what will be in store for Monday’s Reggae Day.