A Guide to This Year’s Mid West Reggae Fest

Few festivals last five years let alone 25 years. And yet, this year the annual Mid West Reggae Fest, which lays claim to the title “The Only Multi-Day Reggae Festival East of the Mississippi River,” celebrates its 25th anniversary. That’s a quarter century of good vibrations on the North Coast.

“After 25 years, this has been an enormous undertaking,” says promoter Packy Malley, who holds down a day job at Malley’s Chocolates. “People wait to the end to buy tickets. I have all this money laid out and I don’t have corporate sponsorship. I’ve been doing it for 25 years, and I’m not sure I’ll be doing this much longer. One of the mottos at Malley’s Chocolates is to make the chocolates as if you were making them for yourself. I apply that to the festival and make it something I would like to go to. There is camping and swimming and you can bring your own coolers and food. It’s perfect. The people who have their minds blow are the ones who come here from out of state. They can’t believe what a great experience it is.”

This year’s festival, which takes place from July 29 to July 30 at Clay’s Park in North Lawrence features acts from around the world (and some from right here in Northeast Ohio). There will also be arts and crafts and Caribbean food.  We asked Malley to tell us a bit about the bands slated to play this year’s event.


Lungu Vybes

5:30-6:30 p.m.

They are a band from Africa who make their home in Columbus. It’s a whole family that plays in the band. They’re fastly becoming a popular reggae group in Ohio. They played last year’s festival, and they really wowed the crowd.

Ark Band with Deighton Charlemagne
7-8:30 p.m.

They’re St. Lucians who make their home in Columbus. They’ve been around for a long time. I’ve known them for 30 years. Deighton Charlemagne is signed to Island. I’m putting them together as a special thing because we’ve known each other for so long. It’s a rare thing. It’s a Midwest Reggae Fest thing. They played together a couple of years ago, and it was really great.

Marty Dread
8:30-9:30 p.m.

He’s from Hawaii. He has played at the reggae fest numerous times. He just put out two new albums. Kris Kristofferson has called him the best songwriter he’s ever met. He’s a fabulous entertainer. I fly him in, and he’s really good. I met him in Hawaii in 2005. He’s very popular there.

Badfish — A Tribute to Sublime
10:30 p.m.-midnight

They’re super popular here in Northeast Ohio. They sell out the House of Blues every year on weeknights in February. They bring in a different crowd. They bring a young, rock crowd, which is great. They play Sublime’s music, which is a hybrid of rock and reggae. I’m really looking forward to their set.


Outlaws I&I
Noon-1:30 p.m.

They’re from Cleveland and Lorain. They have a very energetic lead singer named Butchie B. The rest of the guys are the former [local reggae act] First Light band. They’re really accomplished. Butchie is a great frontman. I’m a big fan of theirs.

Jah Messengers
2-3:30 p.m.

They’re a great band with a lot of Jamaican immigrants that live in Cleveland. They just played in the Flats last weekend. They are awesome. I really like them. I was at their first-ever gig at Peabody’s and liked them from the start.

6:30-8 p.m.

I love those guys. They begged to get on the reggae fest a few years ago. They came up and played for free and just killed it. They were the talk of the show. They’re from Fort Meyers, in Southwestern Florida. They’re a young rock reggae band. They’re not a traditional reggae band. They just put out a brand new CD a few weeks ago.

Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band
8:30-10 p.m.

What’s interesting is that he’s just not the most popular reggae band in Northeast Ohio, but he’s by far the most popular band. Everyone loves him He’s a great entertainer. People who have never seen him before – he can have all of them dancing. He knows how to bring it every time. He wins over crowds every single time he plays. As great as a musician he is, he’s an even better guy. I can’t say enough positive things about him. The guys in the band are great too. They put their time in here in Cleveland. They’re fantastic. They’ve played almost every one. A couple of years I sat him out because I didn’t want him to have to play every festival. I’ve learned it’s best to have him.

Bunny Wailer
10:30 p.m.-midnight

I am thrilled that he is going to be part of this festival. To me, he is the most important living reggae artist in the world. He started the Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. It’s rare that he even plays. It’s even more special that he’s playing here. He’s never played Ohio. I don’t even recall him playing the Midwest before. He’s 69 years old, but he is doing a little bit of touring this year. It’s a big deal.


Devil’s Lettuce
Noon-1:30 p.m.

They’re another band out of Columbus. They were recommended by a reggae promoter. They’re also a rock reggae band that should fit in with the other rock reggae bands playing this year.

Sol Tribe
2-3:30 p.m.

They’re out of Texas. They’re a touring reggae band that wanted to be part of the festival. I appreciated their enthusiasm. No one here has ever seen them before. That’s fun too. I’m looking forward to seeing them for the first time.

Midwest Reggae Fest, Friday, July 29- Sunday, July 31, Clay’s Park, 13190 Patterson St NW, North Lawrence, 330-854-6691. Tickets: $65-$85, midwestreggaefest.com

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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