Reggae Rise Up Maryland 2022: Day One

You book a redeye flight with the intention of sleeping through it. At least that’s what I did… only I didn’t take into account how excited I was to go to the first ever Reggae Rise Up Maryland three-day music festival. I didn’t sleep a wink on that flight.

With a backpack bursting at the seams, I headed straight for Port Covington.

Despite arriving a few hours early, there was already a line of people waiting to get in. The anticipation vibrated so loudly, you could almost hear the buzz. I took some time to walk around the grounds, in order to familiarize myself with the layout. I first noticed the free water station and felt eternally grateful to RRU for this. That summertime Maryland humidity is no joke! The art installations were discovered shortly after. People trickled in as artists prepped their space, vendors put finishing touches on their booths and clips of favorite songs played for sound check.

Signal Fire — a North Carolina-based band — kicked off the weekend, packing the rail before the first note was even heard. Their set-crushing performance hit an energy level so high that challenged all other performers to reach. Thankfully, Sun-Dried Vibes answered that call. Another North Carolina reggae rock band knew exactly how to take the reins from Signal Fire. Having formed in 2010, these seasoned performers were right at home. Their catchy, sing-along tunes stood the test of time with this crowd.

Reggae Rise Up Maryland did us right with their schedule set up.

With 10 minutes between sets and both stages within a couple hundred feet of each other, there was no panic in missing the next performer. Attendees could hop in line for some food, drinks or merchandise without missing a thing! Lila Iké, Jesse Royal and Protoje each took the stage, respectively, taking us back to Jamaican roots reggae — a pleasant reminder of where this particular music scene stems from.

Also gracing the stage that day were The Elovaters, Bumpin Uglies, The Movement and headliners Dirty Heads. Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin Uglies was living his best Maryland life! With a smile plastered on his face all day, he mingled with the crowd, watched performances from both in front of the stage and side stage, he jumped up with pal Jackson Wetherbee (of The Elovaters) to perform their hit song “Everything Changes”. If you’re a fan of Bumpin Uglies, you already know how hard Brandon Hardesty has worked to bring reggae music to the mid-Atlantic. With the success of the entire weekend, I would say he’s doing a great job!

The sun was setting as The Movement was performing. Keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Matt Goodwin took us from reggae to rock when he closed out the set from atop the stage truss. And, Dirty Heads took it from there. The crowd saddled in for the final act of the day and despite the heat and exhaustion from such an exciting day, there was no thinning of the crowd. Thankfully, too, as Dirty Heads hit us with a surprise appearance from Rome Ramirez (of Sublime with Rome) to perform their hit single featuring Ramirez, “Lay Me Down”. sAt the end of the night, attendees floated to the rideshare port from the cloud nine we’ve been on all day. Now, to just catch some quick Z’s before getting back on that cloud for Day Two!

Photography by Jenna Shaw

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