The sixth annual Reggae Rise Up Florida (RRU) music festival was held October 21 – 24, 2021 at Vinoy Park, a waterfront venue in St. Petersburg, Florida. Originally scheduled for March 2020 dates, the music festival was postponed a total of three times during the pandemic. To make up for the postponements, an extra night, Thursday, October 21 was added to the festival schedule.
Big name reggae artists headlined the event, including Stephen Marley, Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, Slightly Stoopid, SOJA, Dirty Heads, Tribal Seeds and Iration. Other bands on the bill included Fortunate Youth, Matisyahu, The Elovators, Ballyhoo! and more.
My RRU festival experience was outstanding! I had life-changing events occur during the pandemic and received a refund for my ticket for the original dates. When the event was rescheduled, I had to go, but the new dates were already sold out. I sent an email explaining my circumstances and was connected with a direct contact at Live Nite Events (LNE), an event organizer and full service entertainment company, in order to have my three-day VIP wristband reinstated. LNE made an exception to make sure a devoted music-lover could attend.
The music festival brings in an estimated 15,000 fans per day. Only Thursday tickets remained at the kick off of the festival. The sold-out crowds consisted of all ages. The festival plans for the 11.6-acre park venue included multiple stages, world-class production, interactive activities, and large-scale art installations. More than 100 food and craft vendors were centrally located for attendees to eat, drink and shop.
Below are highlights from my personal experience at the festival:
Friday – Our crew posted up at the Rise Up stage, the main area during the event. Kicking it off for us was Fortunate Youth, whose set was as hot as the Florida sun, blending a melting pot of blues, ska, rock and punk. Tribal Seeds played the magical sunset hour and cooled the crowd off with their classic reggae sound. To close the day was the infamous, Grammy-award winning Jamaican artist, Damian “Jr Gong” Marley. His presence exploded on the stage with his world-renowned lyrics and rhythmic beats radiating through the crowd.
Saturday – Saturday was my favorite day! We started at the Rise Up stage with The Ries Brothers, a duo from Clearwater, Florida. They got my crew’s day rolling with their high energy, sophisticated-soulful sound. We moved over to the Vibe Stage to catch The Elovators, a fun group that drew its energy from the crowd. Back at the Rise Up stage for the fiery HIRIE, a high-energy, down-to-earth female artist, who reminded the crowd we are all just human and are meant to take care of one another. Our crew agreed, we want to see more of her. Classic Grammy-nominated artist SOJA took over the Rise Up stage at sunset. His agile voice paired with good music transports and inspires all the fans. Closing the day was Slightly Stoopid, a band that can make everyone in a large crowd feel like family. The whole set was full of their eclectic musical styles and collaborations with other artists at the festival.
Sunday (Funday) – I always go by the motto, “never miss a Sunday show.” For us, the Sunday opener was singer/songwriter, Landon Macnamara, performing on the Rise Up stage. His blend of reggae, rock and blues sounds combine to give the crowd positive and relatable music. Next, we headed over to the Vibe Stage to hear Badfish, a tribute to Sublime. The band replicates Sublime’s essence by playing with great energy and spirit. Iration played at sunset on the Rise Up stage. Their love of music shines with their bright, fun and happy style. We ran over to the Vibe Stage to catch the always awesome Matisyahu. His set mixed classic, crowd-pleasing songs and debuted some new songs.
For me, the most surprising set was the RRU festival closer, Dirty Heads. I only knew a handful of their songs. Our crew walked up on their performance in full swing at the Rise Up stage. The vibe from the crowd was intense and so much fun. Every fan was dancing to their mix of hip-hop, reggae, rock sound. The band’s unforgettable set was full of positive vibes and infectious grooves that left a lasting impression on every live music lover.