Reggae Rise up Florida 2024: Day One

There was an overall energy already permeating from St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park as it was once again turned into festival grounds. As the gates opened and fans started to pour in, Reggae Rise Up Florida had officially began, reminding all that festival season is upon us. Springtime in the Tampa Bay region is usually marked by temperate weather, iconic blooms, and the sounds of reggae rock spilling out from its waterfront. 

Reggae Rise Up Florida has come a long way from its start as a single-day event at the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s stadium.

Aside from the inaugural year, St. Petersburg has been home to the festival, maintaining much of the same vibe as its early days while significantly growing in size and level of experience for fans. Now a four-day event (as of a couple years ago), Thursday started off the weekend strong. Calling it a warmup leading up to the full jam-packed days ahead wouldn’t be fair to this evening that was loaded with high-energy favorites.

With a single stage for the first day of Reggae Rise Up Florida, the music felt like the sole focal point with a lineup that featured Brothers Within, Through the Roots, Little Stranger, Lupe Fiasco, and Dirty Heads. Spanning from roots reggae rock with Florida natives Brothers Within to the hip hop-style headliners, each performance was differentiated, yet harmonized under the Reggae Rise Up banner.

And, let us tell you, Little Stranger’s onstage presence is unmatched.

It would be a challenge to name another group that makes a big stage feel so filled with just two performers. Building some of their beats before everyone’s eyes, lyrics and freestyles were hard-hitting, yet — at the same time — showing that the duo don’t take themselves too seriously. Plus, their onstage banter and crowd rapport makes every set feel like a totally different experience. And this day’s performance was top-tier. 

Dirty Heads closed out the day on a high note, setting the right vibe for the days to come. A band with such longevity and variety within their discography, they delivered a well-crafted set, peppered with old-school favorites and more recent hits. The whole band looked to be having as much fun as the vast crowd that had accumulated by the end of the night, elevating the vibe for all. 

Similar to the large blank slates starting to transform into mesmerizing murals at the hands of artists throughout the grounds, the Day One performances left all with a sense of yearning — excitement for what’s still to come for the rest of Reggae Rise Up Florida 2024.

Photography by Dale Gebelein; recap by Jessica Shvarts

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