All those seeking "good vibes" and "one love" flocked to the 31st annual Reggae Geel festival in Geel, Belgium. In recent years, and in particular since moving to other grounds in Geel's Belse Bossen area, Reggae Geel has evolved into a festival that has a lot to offer. Whether it's modern roots, vintage reggae, hardcore dancehall, UK steppers, ska, rock steady or heavyweight dub, it's all there and thus there's always something to enjoy for the festival-goer. Apart from the music, Reggae Geel has a true Caribbean flavor and thus creates a truly unique feel and vibe, which makes everyone feel real irie.

During the past thirty years of the festival's existence, the organizers of Reggae Geel had to deal with a few cancellations which included Gregory Isaacs, Buju Banton, Sizzla, Bob Andy, Little Roy, Brigadier Jerry, and Bitty McLean. Probably none of these came in that late as this year's cancellation of top artists Cocoa Tea and Turbulence, who seemingly had missed their flight in Jamaica. Third World (doing a festival in Germany at about 300 km away from Geel) was approached to replace Cocoa Tea and Turbulence, but the band decided not to come.
Friday night had stage shows in a packed Bounce Dancehall tent with Top Cat, Lady G, Lady Saw and Glen Washington, with reportedly the two dancehall ladies -- Lady G and Lady Saw -- doing quite well, but overall Top Cat and Glen Washington delivering the most exciting and appealing performances of the night. Backed by Tony Screw's Downbeat The Ruler soundsystem, Glen Washington brought the enthousiastic reacting crowd a great selection of tunes including "Burning Fire", "Jah Blessings" over the Satta" riddim, "Open Your Eyes", "Jah Glory" across Junior Byles' "Fade Away" riddim (after the "rewind... and come again", he also sang the original song), and "Strangers In The Night" on the "Stars" riddim.
Then Saturday... we didn't get there until African Head Charge's set. Before them the main stage was reserved for Ziggi & The Renaissance Band, but because we had already seen this rising Dutch reggae star perform at Geel's annual Bob Marley Bashment in February, we didn't feel like we wanted to attend his performance for a second time, even though he has a decent stage presence and some real good songs. Mixed by On-U-Sound's Adrian Sherwood, the critically acclaimed dub reggae ensemble African Head Charge -- headed by founding member percussionist Bongo I -- brought a dubby, trance-like, haunting, psychedelic kind of music that was received with approval by the majority of the attending people in front of the stage. Their mesmerizing set perfectly fitted the mood of the moment.
Next up was one of the more unsung reggae icons, ex-Black Uhuru lead singer Don Carlos. The latter definitely has one of the sweetest voices in reggae history, and he hardly ever fails to deliver a good performance. His tight playing Dub Vision Band kept the pace sweet for this reggae legend, who treated the at times excited crowd to a parcel of hits including "Johnny Big Mouth", "Sweet Reggae Music", "Christine", "I'm Not Giving Up", "Hog And Goat", "Movin' (To The Top)" and "Time". Other tunes he performed included "Living In The City", "English Woman", "7 Days A Week", "I Just Can't Stop", and a groovy cover of the Abyssinians' epic "Satta Massa Gana". All in all one of the highlights of the festival.
The successful hit duo Chaka Demus & Pliers were rescheduled from the after party in the Bounce tent to the Main Stage to fill the gap left by Cocoa Tea and Turbulence. They certainly tried to give their very best, but on the massive main stage their DJ run set with songs like "Tease Me", "Gal Wine", "Murder She Wrote", "Twist And Shout", "She Don't Let Nobody", "I Need Your Loving", and "Poco Man Jump" simply didn't work that well. However it seemingly didn't bother the large audience as they sang along with the duo's well known hits tunes.
Undoutbtedly the 73-year-old legendary mad genius Lee "Scratch" Perry, whose set was mixed by Adrian Sherwood, was one of the most anticipated artists of the festival. Also backstage none of the artists got so much attention as this living legend with his purple paint beard, outlandish clothes and jewelry. Perry was in a good mood (which is not always the case), and riddims such as "Heathen", "Roastfish And Cornbread", "Exodus", "War Ina Babylon", and "Curly Locks", expertly laid by his wicked playing UK backing band, proved to be a good vehicle for the man's lyrical improvisations and trancelike, occasionally monotonous vocal delivery. Returning backstage Lee Perry saw himself surrounded by a small, but fanatic crowd who eagerly wanted to touch the man, make a picture, or just speak to him. There was even a woman who insisted that Lee Perry would hold her baby for a few moments. It was a weird situation backstage, we had never witnessed something like that before!
In the meantime German veteran sound Pow Pow Movement tore down the hot and steamy Bounce Dancehall tent with a blazing set of tunes and a great MC. The energy and the power of the sound's performance was truly impressive. Towards the end of their set they paid tribute to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, which received huge approval of the dancehall massive. Then Civilizee Foundation, at the moment one of Belgium's leading soundsystems, had the difficult task to follow up Pow Pow Movements' energetic set, but they did well and kept the dancehall vibes flowing until the very end.
Back to the Main stage where up and coming singer Cutty Corn did the warm up for Anthony B, with whom he's associated since he has left the Danger Zone management. After Cutty Corn doing Sanchez's "Hallelujah/Never Dis De Man" and his own "Lucky Man", it was time for the headliner of the festival, 'the trendsetter' Anthony B. It was his third appearance at Reggae Geel, after already having graced the Main stage in 1997 and 2002.

Anthony B has built himself a name as an artist who never lets down his many fans as he always delivers a captivating, energetic performance. And we've to admit, again he fully lived up to exceptations. When the popular firebrand singjay hit the stage in his usual high-stepping manner, after doing an intro and a part of "Equal Rights" in the back of the stage, he immediately raised the energy level and it was obvious the crowd was in for a treat. Along came high quality songs such as "Reggae Gone Pon Top", "Good Cop", "Iley Iley Iley Iley Selassie I", "Raid Di Barn", "Waan Back aka Water Pumpee", "World A Reggae Music", "Police", "Higher Meditation", "Mama", "Tease Her"", "Good Life", in which he also sang a part of Beres Hammond's "They're Gonna Talk", and "They Don't Really Care About Us", a tribute to Michael Jackson. Anthony B not only got the Reggae Geel massive in a frenzy with his charisma and antics, he also proved to be a real good closing act.

Reggae Geel is always a great time, and this edition -- despite Cocoa Tea and Turbulence's absence -- was no exception.
Text : Mr. T   Photos: Teacher