You might not associate the green fields of Beavercreek with the hard, percussive sounds of modern reggae, but Clackamas County is in for a treat when the Northwest World Reggae Festival plugs in its sound system on July 29 and 30.
Thirteen miles down Highway 213 from Oregon City, the campsite at 26450 S. Beavercreek Road should be overflowing with good vibes as some of reggae's top names come to town. The Northwest World Reggae Festival has outgrown its venue near Eugene and organizers are hoping for bigger and better things in 2022, and now has a daily maximum capacity of 800 people.
Friday night's headliner Liberation Movement capture the hippie-reggae crossover vibe of the Whole festival, where white braids are as common as natty dreads. Liberation Movement play synth-heavy space dub, devoid of upbeats and Caribbean accents, with lyrics concerned with the cosmos, altered consciousness and the many flavors of freedom. Founder Grant Chambers has said, "The project was seeded at the Temple of the Way of Light in the Peruvian Amazon, at which point I was recruited to work with and create recordings of shamans in traditional ceremonies in Peru." The San Francisco group played the Oregon Eclipse festival in 2017. They've had enough collaborators to form a football team, so don't be surprised if some Tuvan throat singers or Butoh dancers join them on stage.
The LambsBread sing about one love, vibrations and freedom, too, but in a more traditional way. They're from Kauai so they have a soft mysticism rooted in nature, although founder Kaya and Nadia put their first single out on a Jamaican label in 2003, so they have island roots.
Good time band Collection of Lone Souljahs are another garrulous band who, with their ukulele and easy diction, sound like they could be from Hawaii, but they're actually from Vancouver, Washington. Coloso, as their bumper stickers dub them, just played the Darling Reunion camp at Oregon Country Fair. Listen out for rock guitar solos and wandering bass breaks that interrupt the usual thudda-dum-dum of reggae.
On Saturday, Trinidadian Marlon Asher tops the bill with his Babylon-friendly electronic reggae. The man has toured with dancehall faves such as Capleton, Sizzla, Beenie Man, and even Boyz II Men. Asher lost his left index finger when he was a joiner, but construction's loss was reggae's gain. His signature hit "Ganja Farmer" (2005) remains a crowd pleaser, although it might sound dated in Oregon, where the only helicopters buzzing the weed farms belong to venture capitalists and executives. "Feel No Way" and the new track "No Getting Over You" show Asher at his best.
Prezident Brown was born Fitz Albert Cotterell in Jamaica in the 1960s and has lived the full arc of reggae from Marleymania to rude ragga, but his pure, loping, roots reggae is sure to strike a nerve with all ages. Songs like "Experience and Knowledge" and "Higher State of Mind" still encourage that combination of worrying about humanity while being completely blissed out that Jamaican reggae does so well, and his bass guitar and analog drums should carry far across the valley.
One unmissable Saturday act is Reemah, whose 2012 debut album "Check Your Words" announced her as a fine lyricist, musician and stage performer. "Don't Want Nothing" has a plodding gravity to it, while "War" is sure to remind the crowd of the reality beyond the bubble that is mainland America.
Late night DJ sets from Bloodshot Riddims will keep the energy up and the campers awake: Northwest World Reggae Festival offers camping as well as day tickets (Friday $40, Saturday $70), which are on sale at nwwrf.com/tickets
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