On June 13-15, 2014, Reggae in the Hills soared through its third year in Angels Camp at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds. For three days the music played nearly nonstop with an extensive line of topnotch talent. The largest lineup was on Saturday with two stages featuring ten different sets. From as early as 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. the Reggae magic filled the air as set after set drew the crowds.
The "Main" stage and the "Side" stage had talents appearing throughout the day that could just as easily been booked into the headliner positions. In fact, some of the earlier performing artists have appeared at other Reggae festivals as the evening headliners. Apparently, the Reggae in the Hills method of operation is to book headliner talent to perform at various times in both the day and the night. That tactic, indeed, is not going to turn away any Reggae lovers. Luciano played at 5:20 p.m. and Marlon Asher played at 2:30 p.m. The talent organizers clearly don't believe in sloughing on the job or drawing out the excitement by holding out on the fans.
The mix of the 2014 performing talent was also a good balance of Reggae styles with younger established musicians as well as traditional veterans like Junior Reid and Prezident Brown. The crowds seemed to love them all. Individuals surely have their favorites but, with two stages running on Saturday, it was nearly impossible for a real Reggae fan to be disappointed unless they simple don't know how to have a good time.
There is little critical commentary that would be suitable to report on Reggae in the Hills but for the sake of being fair and balanced, one might note that the other performing arts like cultural dancers were too easily overlooked. The other venues were not quite adequately promoted once attendees arrived. The worst result of this little detail is that there was far more to enjoy than most people managed to squeeze into their day or entire weekend. While this sounds silly, sometimes realizing you missed something really cool makes an attendee pout for a bit even after rattling on about all the great talent they witnessed and soaked in.
Another detail that RITH might consider is perhaps putting more chairs in the VIP section. If you attend as a VIP, you want somewhere to kick back in the heat of the day. The chairs might be less desirable in the evening since most fans stand up, crowd the stage, raise arms and generally crunch. The VIP section is no different. However, RITH does allow people to bring in their low back chairs and, for those who don't enjoy placing their behind on a patch of grass, it is highly recommended to bring in some chairs, picnic blankets and other comforts.
Most Reggae fans that attended RITH will surely be putting the event on their calendars for next year and many years to come, providing the organizers continue to go in this same direction. For those who come out for the entire weekend and don't desire to camp, be fairly warned that the local lodging options get fully booked out in advance. This festival deserves a genuine thumbs up. Cheers to the festival founders/owners Scott Durst and Jay Smith! Cheers to the executive assistant and media manager Samantha Hernandez for her enduring patience and continuing attention to the artists and many interviews! Cheers to the entire staff and all the hard working volunteers!