REVIEW: Rain Doesn’t Dampen Spirits at Best of the Best Music Fest
With off-and-on rain and temperatures more like September than late May, Bayfront Park in Miami was the gathering place of Caribbean music lovers for the 16th edition of the Best of the Best Music Fest.
“I’m staying,” Marcus Johnson said with a smile.
Johnson, along with friends and family, was standing under an umbrella with plate in hand; they were there to enjoy some of the delectable food that is a part of this long-running festival that gathers artists and music lovers from nearly every Caribbean nation.
“We have been coming for the past five years, and we always look forward to it,” Johnson said.
Perhaps that might explain why thousands in attendance endured a relentless rain that kept fans under umbrellas throughout nearly the entire day. People took cover wherever possible, including under trees or any place with covering they could find, while some simply embraced the rain and celebrated.
Despite Mother Nature’s plans for the day, spirits remained high, and there was plenty of eating, drinking, and dancing going on. Festival-goers took advantage of the plethora of curated food vendors on hand who were selling nearly everything jerk, including delicious culinary delights such as jerk chicken, jerk lobster, spicy jerk shrimp, jerk pork, and even more jerk this and that.
When you promote yourself as the Best of the Best, you raise the bar quite high. Organizers do a great job of making this a fun, engaging fun-festival filled with plenty of irie vibes while showcasing some highly talented musicians who have kept fans of the festival returning year-after-year.
What makes this festival unique? Perhaps its the feeling of being a judgment-free zone. There is something special here, a place to connect with people who may or may not be of the same race, color, creed, or even island, but that doesn’t matter; the gathering puts all those things aside and promotes peace and love, something the world could use more of.
The Caribbean culture makes approaching a stranger easy. Perhaps all it takes is a smile, a fist bump, and striking up a conversation to form a new friendship that might last a few hours or perhaps a lifetime.
The music festival included a stellar lineup of reggae, dancehall, and soca musicians, from up-and-coming artists like Pressure, Ricardo Drue, Patrice Roberts, and Lyrikal who represent the next generation of artists to well-recognized performers like Cham, Mr. Vegas, and Chris Martin.
This year’s lineup included iconic Jamaican singer Beres Hammond, who last performed stateside several years ago. There was a ton of anticipation and excitement about his performance; perhaps a higher power consulted with Mother Nature, because shortly before Hammond took the stage, the rain ended. For many it was worth the wait; after all, they came to see one of the true legends in music.
As Hammond came out on stage, shouts of “We love you, Beres” could be heard and were a constant reminder of the adoration from his fans from a career that has lasted nearly five decades. He rewarded the crowd by indulging them with fan favorite tune “Stand in My Way,” where the crowd joined in and sang along in near perfect harmony. Hammond with his full band and three backing singers went on to 2003 hit “She Loves Me Now.” With the crowd fully engaged, he transitioned into “Tempted to Touch” followed by “Double Trouble” and engaged in an extended singalong with “Putting up Resistance” that had people swaying side-to-side during one of his most popular tunes. He also performed “Never Let Go,” “Love Means Never to Say I’m Sorry,” “I Feel Good,” and “They Gonna Talk.” Hammond stated, “I’ll remember tonight for a long time” as the crowd cheered loudly in approval. He closed out the night with romantic ballad “Rockaway” from the album Music is Life (2001).
Hammond’s powerful and commanding voice sounded incredible. His performance was well worth the wait and can best be described as a musical interlude of romantic reggae that will fill your spirits and make you feel the love. After a full 45-minute performance, Hammond waved to the crowd and said, “Thanks for the moment” before walking off stage.
Baby Cham, now referred to as simply Cham, returned to Best of the Best, having first played the festival in 2010. A more mature Cham was simply incredible. His dance and vocals were perfect. He got the crowd dancing, but unfortunately he only had a few minutes to perform because of the late start time that pushed the later artists back.
Those who remained wanted more, and the energy changed into overdrive when Kingston-born reggae/dancehall powerhouse Mr. Vegas took over the stage for a brief one-song, five-minute performance due to time restrictions.
Best of the Best Music Fest was a huge hit, and everyone had a great time despite the rain. People came to listen to a great mix of music and dance and celebrate their Caribbean heritage. It was a day filled with good vibes that brought together thousands of music fans to celebrate all things Caribbean. After 16 years in Miami, organizers know precisely what people want, and year after year they deliver. This was a fun festival that should be marked on your calendar and circled twice! Perhaps it’s time to start making plans to attend this incredible music festival next year. Best of the Best: we’ll see you in 2023!