Returning to Liverpool with a jam-packed line-up and family-friendly workshops, Positive Vibration transforms a corner of Baltic Triangle into the city’s very own little piece of Jamaica. Taking over Constellations, Hangar 34 and District, Greenland Street and its surroundings are alive with the music and art of Jamaica’s rich heritage.
It’s a full-on riot as soon as you enter the festival: the Jamdown Market offers food, festival merch, records, trinkets, and henna tattoos for those festival goers who aren’t sufficiently kitted out and ready for a celebration of all things Jamaica (and there aren’t many of those). A colourful wooden structure of signposts sits at the festival’s centre, pointing us to each location: go left for Hangar 34, or carry on for 3,848 miles and you’ll hit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
To the right, Constellations houses The Art of Reggae Exhibition that presents 100 reggae-inspired posters, designed by illustrators and artists from all over the world. Each poster is a unique response to the genre’s heritage and there are a variety of styles and approaches, but all point to the power and hope that reggae inspires.
Outside in the Garden, with colourful flags overhead and giant flower lights, No Fakin’ and DJ Andy Smith fire up the adult-only Friday. Keeping it soulful, No Fakin’ deliver smooth tracks perfect for the summer evening, before Andy Smith follows with an impressive collection of classic reggae and calypso tracks. Taking us right through to midnight, he keeps his crowd on their feet with a typically thumping set.
Inside Constellations, Leicester-based reggae collective Vibronics draw in passers-by with their uplifting dub set. Singing live lyrics, dancing to their mixes, and with a drummer onstage who perfectly offsets the beats, their energy and rhythm is infectious. Across the way, Hangar 34 is decorated in a variety of flags and is filled with the emotive vocals of Aba Shanti-i. His roots reggae set offers slow tempos and a thick, heavy bass. Finishing off the night with Jah Shaka in District leaves me eager for more. He plays us a collection of tracks that encapsulates the roots of reggae in its finest form.
After a day of arts, crafts and workshops, the grey clouds shift for the sun to join us at the festival’s close. An incredible and even bigger selection of musical talent comes together for a second helping of Positive Vibration. Every way I turn, I’m met with rich and lively appreciations of reggae in varying styles and creative portrayals. Highlights include Scientist’s intricate and electronic dub, a passionate performance from Backbeat Soundsystem, and Don Letts’ rocksteady rhythms. The Selecter have the audience swaying to their pounding beats, with Pauline Black sending the crowd in Hangar 34 into an ecstatic groove with On My Radio, Too Much Pressure, and 3 Minute Hero.
What with cocktail bars, exotic food trucks, Jamaican art, and an array of international musical talent, the festival is a truly transporting experience that welcomes diversity. In celebrating such an inclusive and elevating culture, Positive Vibration proves that, no matter what the political climate, these carefree and uplifting creative spaces will continue to thrive.
9th – 10th July 2017
Positive Vibration: Festival of Reggae @ Baltic Triangle, Liverpool
Review written for and published by Bido Lito!