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Reggae in the Hills begins with Durst and Smith part 2

Continued from part 1
While many sacrifices are required to produce an event the caliber of Reggae in the Hills, it’s what Scott Durst and Jay Smith both love doing. “It’s our life.” They are like brothers and make every major RITH decision together. The production is a huge undertaking that keeps them “punching away year round” and calls upon “a team of about 15 key people who help with consulting and onsite needs and a 70 person street team.”

Reggae in the Hills 2014
Scott Durst andJay Smith
Scott Durst

There have been many key supporters of RITH including Josh Dickel who has been on board since day one and Scott’s assistant Samantha Hernandez who is “a huge asset.” Their close ties to the Calaveras community also create a positive working relationship with local businesses and even law enforcement. There has been little cause to date for calling upon the law and only one conflict stands out in a serious need for security with only one arrest in the past two years which was instigated by a “crazed fan deciding to bumrush the stage during Capleton’s set.” Scott says, “We have a great relationship with the Sheriff’s Department and they are close by if we need them. They are supporters of RITH and really care about their community.”

Scott and Jay’s lifelong love of Reggae energizes their drive for producing RITH but the ease of working with Reggae artists gives them an extra boost. Scott explains, “Reggae artists are so easy to work with. We've dealt with big headed country, rock and metal musicians so dealing with our artists for RITH has been a breeze and a blessing.” When asked if he was a musician himself, he replies, “Yes, lol we had our hay-day back in the ‘90s and early 2000's.” Durst spent his time as a “singer-rapper-beat maker in the rock-metal-rap scene in L.A. in the mid-late ‘90s” and was known as “Scotty Dread.” After working with many artists and bands, he found he could never “get it where I wanted it” and grew to love the business side of music more than playing and performing. “I knew my calling wasn’t performing on stage, it was making rock stars look like rock stars on those stages.”

Some of the foundation performing artists includes Fortunate Youth, Mystic Roots, Arden Park Roots and Massive Delicious. They have performed in the past two years and are on the billing for the 2014 event on June 13-15. Along with the returning artists, RITH aims to book exclusive appearances and major headliners each year including the 2014 headline acts Junior Reid and the One Blood Family, Tribal Seeds, Collie Buddz, Luciano, Natty Vibes, Marlon Asher, and the recent addition of Prezident Brown, as well as many others.

RITH aims “for a mix of what’s popular and current in the U.S. to what’s popular and current in Jamaica and abroad … [and] tries to appeal to the masses with an even balance of the best in both worlds from Roots Reggae to dancehall to what the kids in Cali are listening to.” The Durst-Smith team simply has a passion for good music and positive messages. They have been part of many Reggae oriented events before RITH and one of Scott’s clubs was a Reggae dominant venue. His background gives him “a lot of experience with the culture and [he] has contributed to the cause many times with sound, lighting and co-production.”

The biggest challenge in producing Reggae in the Hills is the fact that it is situated in the middle of “nowhere.” The location makes it difficult to get the team together for meetings and also makes it tougher getting people to the festival. Once attendees do make it out, they are most likely to keep returning and bring more friends in following years. There is no limit on demographics and RITH is designed for people of all ethnicities, ages and walks of life.

Scott and Jay’s version of a Reggae Fest is to “focus more on a family vibe.” “We treat everyone like our brothers and sisters. We don’t promote limitations and strict rules. RITH is an open field of culture and acceptance.” The atmosphere is designed to make people feel welcome and comfortable and to have fun. The appearance of the event is also highly important to them. They present a professional platform through “cutting edge lighting and stage setups” as well as using “a classic branding application with their poster and flyer art.” The RITH team wants to insure that it’s all about the experience for the attendees. Scott says, “We promote fun and keep it grassroots at the same time. …we're conscience about giving people the time of their lives and we always have an exclusive lineup. We virtually have unlimited camping, our prices are super low and we always have the best deal of the summer. Free parking also.”

When a freak heat wave hit Calaveras County one day during the 2013 festival, the “attendees rallied hard and toughed it out.” RITH tried to alleviate any summer heat discomfort through the use of filtered water stations, misting areas and a foot creek. It was close to 115 on paved areas and “it was very hot but you know what people say ‘Capleton brings the fire’ and that he did!” However, such high temperatures in that region are rare and the forecast for 2014 is from 89-92. Even if the weekend is hot, the 2014 festival is being stage using the best parts of the Calaveras County fairgrounds with a “new layout that takes advantage of the greenest grass and biggest trees.” There will also be an indoor stage with big fans and cooling elements. The main stage area will be surrounded by trees and feature massive creative shading structures. Even though another heat wave is not expected, they are doing everything to insure the attendee’s comfort.

The Durst and Smith team, along with their expansive RITH support team, are looking forward to the 2014 festival with much anticipation. They want people to have fun, enjoy the music, love the vibe and celebrate with joy. The event is about “bringing all walks of life to experience their version of a reggae fest.”

The event takes place on June 13-15, 2014 at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds located in Angels Camp, CA. For more information, please see the official RITH website here for schedule, artist information, tickets, camping and local amenities. You can find part one of Reggae in the Hills begins with Durst and Smith here.

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