Photos & Highlights: 11th Annual Montreal International Reggae Festival 8/15 - 8/17
Story and Photography by Empress K (Reggae Reflection)
The 11th year of the Montreal International Reggae Festival (MIRF) officially kicked off on Friday, August 15th with Etana and Maxi Priest headlining the opening evening. I arrived as Maxi Priest was starting his set. Maxi Priest's last performance at the Montreal Reggae festival was in 2006 so fans were eager to get their chance to see Maxi perform again. On tour in support of his 2014 Easy to Love album release, he quickly won over the crowd performing old favorites, mixed with new favorites "Easy to Love" and "Holiday" from his new album. Maxi in high spirits gave what some audience members referred to as an electrifying performance. Backed by his own band and accompanied on several songs by Beniton the Menace, a Jamaican American rapper, Maxi Priest steadily performed hit after hit for the enthusiastic fans. The audience had a preview of Pinchers in advance of his appearance scheduled for Sunday when Maxi Priest called him to appear briefly as a surprise guest. Towards the end of his set, Maxi Priest also included a well received salute to Michael Jackson. Overall, Maxi Priest's delivery of his unique blend of R&B and Reggae was a great conclusion to the opening night of the Montreal International Reggae Festival.
Day two of the event for at least as far as I can recall, has been known as dancehall night. This year MIRF again paid homage to the Soca lovers in the house with the line-up addition of Bajan Soca Queen, Alison Hinds. Dancehall fans were entertained by up and coming Jamaican artist Kalado who kicked off the headliner portion of the day. The afternoon sets from Kiprich and QQ kept the audience engaged as Kiprich called an audience member on stage for a "wine" contest and both QQ and Kiprich made their way into the audience during their sets to greet fans in the general admission section. As the evening started, DeMarco took to the stage followed by Alison Hinds, and Sean Paul backed by his own band Badda Banz and the Badda Gyalz dancers. Even the downpour of rain that increased in intensity during the later sets of the evening could not contain the excitement of the crowd. Many young Sean Paul fans came early in the afternoon armed with umbrellas so they could secure a front row spot in the general admission area. Allison Hinds had the crowd moving with her performance of Roll it Gal and Thundah. Sean Paul's high energy set closed out the evening as a sea of umbrellas swayed to the infectious dancehall beats of Sean Paul's popular songs such as I'm Still in Love, Gimme the Light , and Temperature to new songs from Sean Paul's latest album Full Frequency.
Montreal fans brave the rain to enjoy Day 2 of the Festival!
Day 2 - Soca and Dancehall performances
For the final day of the festival, it was wonderful to wake up and see the sun shining! I carried an umbrella just in case, however no rain was going to interfere with my last full day in Montreal!
The afternoon set of headliners was off to a great start when Pinchers entered the stage. Dressed in a stylish red suit and classic bad man style Fedora hat, Pinchers breezed thru his set which included fan favorite songs Enemies (Borderline), Champion Bubbler, and had the crowd singing along with his signature hit Bandolero.
Looking regal and elegant in a flowing gown of the Jamaican colors of yellow, green and black, Marcia Griffiths performed well known selections such as Dreamland, Feel Like Jumping and her trademark song and dance Electric Boogie (The Electric Slide). During her performance, a representative from the Consulate of Jamaica in Montreal in conjunction with Eric Blagrove, President of the MIRF presented Marcia Griffiths with a Life Time Achievement Award for her outstanding music career spanning five decades. She proceeded to close out her set with her popular song No, No, No, then brought a living breath to the timeless Bob Marley classic, Redemption Song.
I-Octane backed by the Ruff Kutt band had the crowd in a frenzy as he performed crowd favorite songs including, Gyal a Gimme Bun and Missing You Like Crazy. He also performed a substantial amount of his set off stage at the sound tent thrilling the audience in the general admission section with hits such as Love Di Vibe and was joined by Exco Levi for More than A Friend. I-Octane continued to perform a powerful set as dusk transitioned into evening.
Sanchez was up next bringing his own band along. Sanchez sang his classics such as Lonely Won't Leave me Alone, sampling a section of Pass the Kutchie and Live it Up with the audience members enthusiastically singing along.
Ruff Kutt returned to the stage once again to accompany the evening's headliner, Luciano. The Messenger delivered an uplifting and spiritual finale to close out the 11th Annual Montreal International Reggae Festival. Luciano certainly made it up to the fans that were disappointed that he could not be on last year's festival by performing many songs that Luciano is known for including popular hits such as Messenger and Never Give up my Pride.
Throughout the weekend, DJs including Howard "Stretch" Carr, Pat Dillon, and Janice Dayle from Montreal's leading College Reggae radio station CKUT had a dedicated booth to stream live audio and interview artists after their performance. A media tent also provided an opportunity to photograph and interview most of the artists.
Last year the Montreal International Reggae Festival reached a milestone anniversary for its tenth year. Keeping up with the tradition of making the festival bigger and better each year, the Montreal International Reggae Festival proved that once again as the festival has evolved into a premiere destination Reggae Festival. As always, I am looking forward to see what's in store for next year!
This year I have included tips on traveling to Montreal. See our tips below in the Destination Montreal section.
Press Play to view the full Slide Show of Photos from The Montreal Reggae Festival
Tips on traveling from the US
How to get there:
By Car - Montreal is approximately 1 1/2 hours from Burlington, VT, 5 1/2 hours from Boston, and 6 hours from NYC.
From points North , head towards Burlington, VT. I drive Route 89 from Bow, NH alll the way to the Canadian Border in Highgate Springs, VT. Exit 21 in Swanton has a few gas stations and convenience stores. It is advisable to fill your tank there before crossing the border.
By Bus: Greyhound has service to Montreal. Check online for other services to Montreal.
By Air: International flights arrive at the Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeu International Airport which is 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the location of the Montreal Reggae Festival in the Old Port of Montreal.
At the Border: If you are a US Citizen, you must have your US passport with you. If you are a US Permanent Resident bring your green card and appropriate valid passport. Check Canada.usembassy.gov/traveling_to_canada.html for specific info on traveling to Canada.
Where to stay: Montreal has countless places to stay in and outside of the city. Familiar hotel chains are common throughout Montreal. Staying just outside the city is less expensive than staying in downtown Montreal, although the ambiance of staying in downtown Montreal has a lot to offer. This year the "Those Travel Bugz" travel team offered packages combining hotel accommodations and festival tickets. Check the MIRF website for more information. montrealinternationalreggaefestival.com/travel-accommodation
What to Bring / Wear: Check the weather forecast and be prepared for anything! Typically the weather is quite warm in mid August, however it can be cooler in the evening. When rain is in the forecast make sure to have a rain poncho and umbrella on hand. Bring lots of sunscreen, shades, a hat, smart phone (my US AT&T service worked great - just remember to turn your mobile data off before you cross the border to a avoid international data charges), and Canadian cash for the food and merchandise vendors. Outside of the festival grounds, there are banks and businesses in town that take debit / credit cards. You will not be able to bring any food or drinks into the festival. There are many food and beverage vendors within the festival grounds and you will be able to come and go from the festival . Each time you enter the festival you will have to go through the security checkpoint.
Currency and Credit Card Transaction Fees: Before you leave home it is best to convert some money into Canadian currency. While many places will accept American dollars, the exchange rate is not always favorable and they will charge you extra to convert the currency. If you need more money once you are in Canada, you can use your bank ATM card at most of the Candian banks. Normal bank fees apply and they will automatically calculate the exchange rate and disburse funds in Canadian dollars.
In addition to the local banks, there are many stores in downtown Montreal that specialize in currency exchange for a small fee.
Before you leave, check with your credit card company to inquire if there is an additional surcharge to use your credit card in Canada and let them know you will be traveling. Most companies have an extra 3 - 5% charge per transaction. I discovered that my American Express card did not have a surcharge, however I also found out that many places only accept Master Card or Visa.
Language: The official language of Montreal, Quebec is French, however in Montreal the majority of people that I have encountered speak English as well and it has never been an issue for me in the 30 + years that I have been traveling to Montreal.
Area Activities: There is so much to see and do in Montreal and the surrounding areas. If you can stay for a few more days it will be well worth your visit. http://www.tourisme-montreal.org
Most of all enjoy your Montreal experience and come back again soon!
Empress K is the Founder, Editor, and Primary Photo-Journalist of www.reggaereflection.com. Reggae Reflection has gained international recognition providing quality coverage of premier reggae events in Jamaica, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Barbados, Guyana, and Nigeria as well as numerous completed photography assignments for notable Reggae Events in the New England area, NY, Alabama, and Florida region. Festival coverage has included Groovin In the Park, Six Flags NJ Caribbean Concert Series, IRAWMA, HangOut Festival Alabama, 9Mile Festival Miami, Rebel Salute, Sunfest FL, Reggae in the Hills and more.
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