Excitement, Fun & Something for Everyone #GroovininthePark 2014!
Story by Grace Vanriel – Founder and CEO of Live Reggae NYC
Photography & Feature by Empress K – Founder & Editor www.ReggaeReflection.com
The fourth annual staging of Groovin in the Park on June 29, 2014 at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, NY can be summed up in one word and that’s spectacular! Billed as one of the premiere outdoor concerts in the city, the festival seamlessly blended outstanding up-and-coming artists with the crown jewels of Reggae, Pop, Rock and Rhythm & Blues for a record breaking estimate of 25,000 enthusiastic fans out in full force and ready to be entertained.
This year’s event delivered everything Groovin in the Park producers promised leaving attendees noticeably exuberant. At the top of my excellence list, celebrated headliner and the Queen of Reggae Marcia Griffiths shared the joy of her illustrious career spanning 50-years in Reggae in a special segment. Recognized as one of the hardest working artists in the business bar none, the celebration was filled with touching moments as Ms. Griffiths backed by the famed 809 Band that reunited original members for this historical occasion including: Christopher Birch, Winston ‘Boo Pee’ Bowen Mikey Fletcher, Dean Fraser, Leebert ‘Gibby’ Morrison, Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson and Desi Jones pinch hitting for touring drummer Paul Kastick. Loyal friend, colleague and another Reggae legend Judy Mowatt (whom Ms. Griffiths worked alongside in the I-threes, the backup vocalists for Bob Marley that also included Rita Marley) took the time to make an appearance, something that has not happened in New York since the September 20 1980 concert at Madison Square Garden when they performed in what was to be one of Bob Marley’s final three major concert dates (that also includes September 23rd at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, PA and in 1981 on May 30th at the Kallerstadion in Zurich, Switzerland).
Even with Roy Wilkins Park nearly filled to capacity her set was chocked full of intimate Marcia moments that created the feeling she was performing just for you. Spontaneous line dancers popped up as she took charge of her mega-hit song “Electric Boogie” then she artfully pushed our pleasure meters even higher with a multitude of other classic hits including “I Shall Sing,” “Closer To You,” “Automatic” and the Studio One classic “Truly,” one of my personal favorites. If the thrill of hearing her incredible unwavering voice and watching her take full command of the stage wasn’t enough, during her celebratory segment Ms. Griffiths was also joined on the stage by Reggae pioneers Bob Andy who she partnered with for more than four years in the early 70’s billed as “Bob & Marcia,” the charismatic Ken Boothe and Tony Gregory who together with Ms. Griffiths recorded her first single duet “You’re Mine” in 1964 and later singing harmony for him in the 1965 song “Baby Come On Home,” both of which were recorded under the Studio One label.
Marcia Griffiths celebrates 50 years in the business with friends and a Reunited 809 Band
I was curious to see how well Roots-Reggae rising star Chronixx performed; I caught him at SOB’s in 2013 and although he was in excellent sound, that performance raised questions in my mind about his rather unassuming stage performance and what I perceived as an invisible barrier placed between himself and the audience that left me feeling unable to fully connect and somewhat bored. However it was a “hold the press” moment for the young artist as he thoroughly commanded the Groovin in the Park stage clearly merging all that is expected from a budding super-star. With great success Chronixx blended his exquisite sound and engaging lyrics with riveting movements I had found lacking in his previous performance. It’s no surprise that in doing so he thoroughly rocked the stage from start to finish gaining the liveliest response performing his hit songs “Smile Jamaica” and “Here Comes Trouble.”
Chronixx & The Zinc Fence Redemption Band Rock the Stage
An enjoyable day for everyone
Crowd Favorite Beres Hammond
There are few words that adequately describe the majestic presence of legendary artist Beres Hammond whose undisputed catalog of mega-hits always guarantees he’ll be a particular favorite among fans bordering and even crossing the line of fanatic adoration. Case in point, had there not been tight security one zealous young woman standing behind the media pit was so excited when he hit the stage she was ready to climb the fence and jump into the pit just to get inches closer to Beres; looking around I can testify that she was not alone. And just when you knew Groovin in the Park was a bonafide success and entry was well worth the cost of the ticket, there was the surprise appearance of super-star Shaggy who hit the stage full-throttle joining Beres. Needless to say an already thunderous crowd went…. absolutely…wild!
Beres Hammond shares the stage with Marcia Griffith and surprise Guest Shaggy
From L.U.S.T to Air Supply – memorable moments at Groovin in the Park
For reasons unofficially unknown, Rocksteady great John Holt who was scheduled to perform in the tribute to Marcia Griffiths was a no-show with unconfirmed rumors of him being under the weather prompting his last minute replacement in the show by Ken Boothe. Never the mind, the highly synchronized harmony group L.U.S.T. kicked off the featured acts segment backed by incredible bassist Derrick Barnett & his flawless Statement Band, a great combination that succeeded in revving up the audience. L.U.S.T gave their all even performing the first song they ever recorded as a group called “Only The Sweetness of Your Love” and had they stayed stage side for another hour, I’m convinced it would have been fine by everyone present…they were that entertaining. Australian soft rock stars Air Supply working together now for over 30-years have remained consistently popular with memorable hits making them a great choice to close out Groovin in the Park. Their sing-along classic gems such “Power of Love” “All out of Love” and “Lost in Love” was met with thunderous applause from the audience and equally as important, their performance made for an exciting change of pace and conclusion to a beautiful summer afternoon of great entertainment.
Photos of L.U.S.T and Air Supply
A Look at the Production of Groovin in the Park
Right about now it’s time to take a quick look into important nuances often overlooked that contributes to the greatness of the big stage experience. For example, Reggae fans in particular will appreciate the fact that the concert started on time and there was excellent music in-between sets by DJ Jazzy who took us to new heights with a wide selection of carefully selected tunes. The addition of Marlene Porter of Power 106 FM Jamaica W.I. in the title role of concert co-host was a brilliant selection and excellent complement to the offbeat shenanigans of seasoned radio host Ras Clem of 93.5 FM. Backstage there were a number of noteworthy Reggae celebrities spotted showing their support for the day’s activities including Everton Blender, Kelissa, Nadine Sutherland, Red Fox and Khari Kill. And speaking of artists, let’s not forget the upcoming talent who performed early on and exceedingly well including: Congo Brainz (Reggae), Kamsha (R&B), Tasha T (Reggae), Fariji (Reggae/Soul), Ky-enie (Reggae) and Gabrielle Ross (Pop). In an era where the development of noteworthy emerging talent is conspicuously absent on major stages, the foresight of Groovin in the Park producers developing the future of entertainment by creating a platform for new artists who clearly should be on the public’s radar is commendable. And while awarding pats on the back, producers should also be commended for giving back to the Caribbean community by committing part of this years proceeds from ticket sales to the well-deserving not-for-profit organization called the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation. The Foundation has been actively raising funds to purchase two much needed Linear Accelerator machines (at a cost of $5 million US each) used in the treatment of cancer that are earmarked for two prominent Jamaican hospitals. If you too are interested in supporting this life saving endeavor, and we hope that you are, please make a tax deductible donation of $10 or more to: Vincent HoSang Family Foundation, 117 Route 303, Suite B, Tappan, NY 10983.
Familiar Faces at Groovin In the Park
Groovin in the Park 2014 was indeed spectacular running from beginning to end without a hitch, full of exciting moments and nuff fun for all in attendance. I can hardly wait to see how they will top this lineup in 2015 but after this production remain convinced that they can and will meet next years challenge.
View the full slide show of Photos from Groovin in the Park 2014
Grace Vanriel is the Founder and CEO of Live Reggae NYC and the Strategic Marketing Executive for the Reggaeholics Movement for “REAL” Reggae lovers. She is a Senior Correspondent for ReggaeReflection.com and Contributing Writer to TheReggaeVibe.com and WhereItzAt Magazine.
Empress K is the Founder, Primary Photo-Journalist and Editor of www.reggaereflection.com. Reggae Reflection has gained international recognition with quality coverage of premier reggae events in Jamaica, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Barbados, Guyana, and Nigeria as well as numerous completed photography assignments for notable reggae events in the New England area, NY, Alabama, and Florida region. Festival coverage has included Groovin In the Park, Six Flags NJ Caribbean Concert Series, IRAWMA, HangOut Festival Alabama, 9Mile Festival Miami, Rebel Salute, Sunfest FL, Reggae in the Hills and more.
Follow Empress K on Twitter, Instagram & Youtube @1EmpressK & ReggaeReflection on Facebook