How Bayfest 2021 brought good vibes back to San Diego

How Bayfest 2021 brought good vibes back to San Diego

SOLD OUT Bayfest San Diego is the first reggae-based festival to return to the city since the beginning of the pandemic. 12K people came to feel the good vibes of the all-SoCal lineup, featuring DENM, KBong, Fortunate Youth, Sublime with Rome and Dirty Heads, filling our empty festival cups. Oh, did it feel amazing walking through those gates at Waterfront Park… Is this really happening? It’s the end of a weird vortex of time and we are back to our lives!

We all look forward to summer concerts every year, but this was straight-up euphoric. 

The good-vibe energy was radiating! The smell of carne asada tacos, burgers, craft beer and sweet smoke filled my senses. The best part was seeing everyone’s faces and big grins… hearing screams of excitement when friends saw each other across the park. Running through the crowd to get arms wrapped around each other. OMG, we are here! The family is back together again. We were actually listening to live music — it almost seemed surreal. I was even grateful for beer spills on my shoe, because that meant someone was closer than six feet to me. 

I’m a bit off my game with festival parking and traffic, so I walked in to KBong already onstage, feeling the Hawaii-meets-San Diego reggae rock vibe with beach balls flying. I had happy tears well up in my eyes (which is not good for the lashes). KBong is that Hawaii/San Diego reggae rock that just makes everything okay in the world; he has this glowing energy and infectious smile that just melts all your woes away with a strum of that guitar.  

Sleeping Giant Music kept us grooving in between sets. Each one gave a heartfelt shoutout to San Diego’s own Carlos Culture, who we tragically lost last year. The fans responded with much love, Carlos — we know you could hear us! The Aggrolites from Los Angeles are bluesy, soulful, reggae ska-infused and a classic reggae vibe. This is why you show up and watch the opening bands. You may discover a new love — I did! It was a class act, all dressed in black, feeling the 60s kind of vibe. I have Aggrolites on repeat shuffle right now.  

Fortunate Youth is one of the bands that got me into the reggae rock scene (I’m the metalhead here) back in 2012. When Dan Kelly said, “Old school people will be singing along”, that was me! I’m old school! The look on their faces when they walked onstage looked like ‘we are home’, too! I love watching this band, because they do musical instruments… well duh, but I mean like musical chairs with instruments. Dan Kelly pours all his emotions out on that stage; you not only hear the lyrics, you feel them. A tradition with FY some time during the set is to share a smoke, okay, yet this is usually the size of a telephone pole. Pass the herb! 

Walking across the stage next was Rome and his son. If the sun didn’t melt you, Rome’s son did… he’s so freaking cute! This was my first time seeing Sublime with Rome. Being honest, I expected it to be fun, but I was kind of blown away. Rome is really amazing! He shared how he saw Sublime when he was 11, how he was a big fan and was inspired by them. He worked hard and was honored to be asked to join them. Zero ego and all gratitude always makes me a bigger fan. I also loved all the old-school songs in the set that we sang loud and proud…

“That’s — when — things — got — out — of — control”… (If you know, you know.)

Finally, the sun gave us a break and a slight cool breeze started rolling in. Dirty Heads hit the stage right at sunset on that gorgeous San Diego night. The crowd was still popping, soaking in every beat, every lyric of this epic night of togetherness. Dirty Heads is a funky, reggae-hip hop vibe, with an impressive discography and a number of hit songs that we all know. “Vacation” has been my motto and music on a lot of Instagram stories of late. “If you don’t like your life, then you should go and change it.” With the last crazy year and a half, we should all soak that in. Buy the ticket, go to the concert. Sell them all out. Thanks Bayfest for the good ride!

Photography by Heather Vandemark

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