Midwest Reggae Fest

With John Brown's Body, I-Tal, Jah Messengers, and others. Saturday, August 14, at Meadowridge Farm, Huntsburg.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square Center, 1519 Euclid Avenue Through August 22; 216-241-6000
The second Saturday in August is when you cram the cooler full of beer, roll yourself a righteous spliff or two, and head east to Huntsburg for an irie afternoon. The 13th Annual Midwest Reggae Fest affords all the ingredients one could desire for such an occasion: outdoor stage, swimming, volleyball, horseshoes, vendors. The music's nothing to snicker at either.

John Brown's Body is simply America's greatest reggae band. Hailing from Ithaca, New York, it's a rootsy eight-piece ensemble with majestic horns, soaring harmonies, and a Hammond B3. Their spunky retro sound stands out, but the real secret lies in the songwriting of singer-guitarist Kevin Kinsella. Unlike many reggae tunesmiths, he puts content over form. "Many Names" and "Music Is My Only Friend" sound so fresh because they stray (ever so tastefully) from the genre's often clichéd lyrics and recycled rhythms. The group's brilliant trio of albums on Shanachie Records is a prime example of the heights American reggae bands can aspire to.

Regional history is also represented, with I-Tal and Jah Messengers, two Cleveland-based roots reggae bands formed in the later half of the '70s. While Jah Messengers sizzled out after only a few short years, I-Tal remained Cleveland's top draw well into the early '90s. Erie PA's One World Tribe is an eclectic blend of Latin, funk, reggae, and world-beat rhythms. DJ K.C. Platinum is one of Cleveland's most consistent sound-system operators, and MC Ras Matungi otherwise fronts Earthforce, our town's longest-running reggae outfit.

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