Bayfest San Diego 2023

Saturday, July 8th brought about a beautiful San Diego day — the kind the city is known for. Summer was in full swing, with fireworks dotting the night sky, and our spirits couldn’t be higher… that is, until Bayfest San Diego rolled around.

On the downtown waterfront, Bayfest blends reggae with a bit of hip hop for one lively summer day.

And this year took the cake. We were smart and headed in early to catch rising sensation Khalil Nash, backed by his Heaping Teaspoon band. This guy is Prince reincarnate; it would be a disservice to yourself if you have the chance to see him and choose to skip out. So, 2pm on the dot, we entered the festival grounds, decked out in red, gold, green, sparkles, and shimmers. This is our time, baby!

What’s great about this fest is that it stretches the length of the lawn of Waterfront Park, giving ample room for thousands to pack in comfortably. Vendors and artist booths greeted you at the gate, as well as many a craft tequila station. Khalil Nash, in sequins and feathers, is something straight out of a 70s movie — simply incredible in talent and flair. After his smooth, satiable (and shall we say sexy??) set, local OB guru DJ Green T held down the deejay booth — spinning reggae songs both new and old — before the punky, grungy vibes of DENM took over the stage. Despite the appearance he just rolled out of bed, oftentimes without a shirt, DENM packs enough talent and charisma onstage to charm the pants off even the most conservative of folks. Again, an artist not to be missed.

But that was the theme of the day — you just can’t miss whose next.

Taking a turn from the reggae and the R&B thus far, rap duo Prof dropped such an emotive performance that several people in the audience had a tear to their eye. One moment, you were head-banging to heavy hip hop and, the next, you were taken down a heart-wrenching path of despair. Every minute of Prof’s set is used intentionally, infused with both overt and subtle messages, and you walk away introspective. Very impressive stuff.

If that wasn’t enough, GRAMMY-winner Koffee was next on the docket and came out, accompanied by full band and sensual backup dancers. Her stage presence is sweet, but fierce — exactly how I like my Koffee. And it was all award-winners or nominees from here on. DJ Unite, another local legend, entertained as Koffee gave the stage over to Common Kings, a set perfectly aligned with the setting sun over the bay. Once the sun dipped below the waterline, the Common Kings stage exploded with lights, taking the energy up even further!

And the icing on the cake — Mr. Jr. Gong, himself.

Welcoming the reggae royal to the stage was his ever-present flag twirler, signaling Jamaica was in the house and not going anywhere. Damian Marley, with his fast flows and fine beats, is always a party. Out of all the Marley brothers, Damian is by far the hardest, the rebel music. Closing with hit after hit, he brought Bayfest 2023 to a close, with MUCH excitement for next year to say the least!

Photography by Jenna Shaw; recap by Kristy Rose

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