Photo Highlights – Reggae at #RiotFest Chicago 2015 Day 3


Welcome to Riot Fest  -(3rd in a 3 part series)

Photos and article by Empress K for Reggae Reflection   and Island Stage Magazine

Riot Fest Chicago 2013

Originating in Chicago as a Punk Rock Festival in 2005 at multiple venues located throughout the city, the festival took root in an outdoor location only four years ago in Humboldt Park and this year it moved to its new location at Douglas Park.  Riot Fest has now evolved into the 2nd largest Festival held in Chicago, second only to the infamous Lollapalooza festival – with its own broad variety of music for a slightly more mature crowd than Lollapalooza.

Where else could you expect to see Punk, Heavy Metal, Rock, Pop-rock, Country, Hip Hop and of course our favorite genre of Reggae all at the same three day festival. Genres of music only separated by the seven stages scattered throughout Douglas Park.  And let’s not forget the full scale Carnival smack in the middle of the park, complete with a giant ferris wheel, amusement rides, cotton candy, funnel cakes and much more carnival fanfare!   The multi-day festival has since expanded its footprint to include stops in Denver and Toronto. 

One of the main attractions in Chicago this year for us, was the wide variety of Reggae acts featured at Riot Fest including Lee Scratch Perry, Dirty Heads, Slightly Stoopid, and Jimmy Cliff as well as the Catch A Fire  artists in the middle of their month-long tour:  Skip Marley, Black-Am-I, Jo Mersa Marley, Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage, Stephen Marley and Damian Marley.  The Reggae artists paired with the legendary acts of No Doubt, Billy Idol, Fishbone, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and much more made this a not to miss festival.   

Check our Day 1 coverage – featuring Fishbone, Lee Scratch Perry,  Chef’Special, Slightly Stoopid, Ice Cube, & No Doubt

Lee Scratch Perry

Check our Day 2 Coverage including Merle Haggard, Billy Idol, and more!

Billy Idol guitarist

Full Riot Fest coverage in the latest edition of Island Stage Magazine  

Sunday’s Highlights  – September 13, 2015

On the final day of Riot Fest,  just as the sun finally made its full appearance, it was time for an entire day of conscious and uplifting Reggae Vibes on the Roots Stage.

tarrus riley

Tarrus Riley had the honor of kicking off the sunny afternoon with a longer set than had typically been the norm on the Catch a Fire Tour, which mostly had condensed sets due to early venue curfews.  We enjoyed seeing more of Tarrus Riley and the solos highlighted in his set from Dean Fraser and the Blak Soil Band, including a song by his keyboardist, Chris Smith as well as a spotlight on producer and bass legend, Glen Browne.

Once Tarrus kicked off his set, the crowd steadily grew with hard-core Reggae fans as well as other festival attendees that stopped by to check out the music, all “vibzing” to the beat. One couple sporting mohawks and  Anthrax T-shirts agreed with a smile for a photo and when I asked them how they were enjoying the Reggae set, the response I received said it all –  “How could anyone not love this?”  A great testament to the fact that Reggae music can and will bring everyone together.   

Tarrus’s powerful medley of songs set included popular selections from his always growing catalog of hits including Lion Paw, Superhuman, Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover), My Day, Good Girl Gone Bad, and Gimme Likkle One Drop as well as his original breakthrough hit, She’s Royal.  Tarrus also brought a  new style of energy to the stage starting with a pre-recorded intro “Someone told me something crazy today, they said it’s ok to be happy!”  before performing Powerful, the New Major Lazer song collaboration also featuring Ellie Goulding.

Tarrus Riley

Dean Fraser and The Blak Soil Band

Dean Fraser



Tarrus Riley Blak Soil Band

An interview with Tarrus Riley

Tarrus Riley Catch a Fire Tour

Tarrus Riley – My Day Live at Riot Fest

Fans started their day early to enjoy a full day of Reggae on the Roots Stage 
(click on first photo to view gallery) 

Riot Fest fans

Riot Fest Fans

Morgan Heritage   –   It’s Cool To Be Conscious

Morgan Heritage

Since reuniting as band in 2013, Morgan Heritage has released and toured extensively in support of their last two albums Here Comes the Kings in 2013 and Strictly Roots released on their new Cool to be Conscious (CTBC) label earlier this year.  Their extended set included a number of crowd pleasing selections from those albums such as Here Comes the Kings, Light It Up, Strictly Roots, Perfect Love Song, and Perform and Done as well as the Morgan Heritage well known classics Nothing to Smile About, Down by the River and Don’t Haffi Dread. Gramps Morgan’s son Jemere Morgan also made a brief appearance during the extended set.

Off Stage Moments at Riot Fest


Members of Chef’Special enjoying some Reggae

Black Am I

Black Am I

Squidly Cole

Squidly Cole

Black Am I

Oral Brown from Blak Soil Band

Black Am I

Black Am I

Lively up yourself, and don’t be no drag, Lively up yourself, Reggae is another bag
Lively up yourself and don’t say no, Lively up yourself, because I said so”    
                                                                                                   Bob Marley 

Lively Up Yourself –  Stephen Marley

Stephen Marley

After a brief band change, Stephen Marley’s band opened up the next segment of the show and backed short sets from the next generation of youths from the Ghetto Youths International camp,  Black Am I,  followed by Stephen Marley’s oldest son, Jo Mersa.  With the Reggae crowd continuing to grow, the atmosphere became even more lively as Stephen Marley kicked off his set with a tribute to his father performing, Lively Up Yourself. Stephen’s set highlighted numerous original songs from his Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life album:  Break us Apart, Can’t Keep us Down, and No Cigarette smoking. Stephen had the pleasure of introducing the youngest entertainer, his 18 year old nephew Skip Marley to the stage to perform Cry to Me, Skip’s debut single release from earlier this year before Stephen performed a few more Bob Marley classics:   Is this Love,  Buffalo Soldier, Iron Zion, and Three Birds.

PictureJo Mersa

Stephen Marley closed out his set with a fitting tribute to the celebration of the next generation on the tour by thanking the younger artists on the tour during the introduction to his his next song and welcomed Jo Mersa back to the stage, adding  “Our future is our responsibility. Responsibility goes a long way, this is my son.  I say responsibility goes a long way, from generation to generation!” before performing a collaboration with Jo Mersa on Revelation Party from Stephen’s upcoming album Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life.

“You can get it if you really Want”  – Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff had an exuberant set – kicking off with a drum medley for Rivers of Babylon before continuing with an energetic performance singing and reminding everyone in the process that You Can Get It If You Really Want. We met many fans who were very inspired to finally see Jimmy Cliff perform for the first time.  And it truly was an inspiration to see Jimmy Cliff perform his mainstream hits from his over 40 year long music career including The Harder they Come, Many Rivers to Cross, Wonderful World – Beautiful People and his covers of Cat Stevens’ Wild World and Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now. He ended his set perfectly with Reggae Night.

Jimmy Cliff

Damian Marley

From the first electrifying notes of the 2013 Skrillex / Damian collaboration, it was time to set the concert into high gear with the crowd’s excitement reaching yet another level as Damian Marley bounded upon the stage performing Bun Dem before launching into Set up Shop setting up the tone for the rest of evening as he performed hits from each of his albums including More Justice, Hey Girl , Beautiful featuring Dean Fraser on a Saxophone Solo, Dispear, Promise Land, Love and Unity, War / No More Trouble, Move / Exodus, Sabali and It was written.  He also welcomed Stephen Marley back to the stage to perform a few collaborations as well.    For the final song before the encore, it was great to see Damian welcome all the artists back to the stage, all smiles and each taking turns singing a verse of the Bob Marley classic, Could you be Loved. Especially significant this year in Marley history since it coincides with the 70th anniversary celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday.


Damian Marley – Putting in the Hard Work

Damian Marley

Damian Marley wrapped up the evening with an encore of Get up Stand up,  Road to Zion, and his chart-topping song Welcome to Jamrock, which put him on the international map just 10 years ago. He also mixed in a bit of his 2014 release Hard Work.  Hard Work indeed it must have been as Damian Marley was instrumental in pulling off some of the most memorable Reggae events I’ve attended in the last couple years: Last year’s inaugural Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise and this year’s month long Catch a Fire Tour including the stop at Riot Fest.   However, it’s well worth the hard work  to inspire others in the Reggae industry to follow in the same footsteps.  We certainly hope to see  many more Reggae bands included in future Riot Fest events as Reggae succeeds in bringing people together in new and unexpected places.

Damian Marley


We have all have Eyez – painted at the Roots Stage and presented to the artists

%d bloggers like this: