EST. 1971
Joensuu Finland 17.–19.7.2015

Damian Marley brought the Jamaican sun to rainy Main Stage

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley's Finnish debut at the Main Stage of Ilosaarirock made the audience move their hips and feet to the Jamaican beat.

The clouds rolling in from the horizon look dark with a yellowish tint, carrying with them the warning of an approaching storm. Unfazed, a massive crowd is trying to squeeze as close to the front of the Main Stage as they can, their eyes aglow with anticipation. Even the risk of rain can’t dampen their expectations for this gig, as they hope to see something unique, something never before witnessed in this country.

The band is ready and starts to warm up the crowd with a couple of instrumental songs, as a man bursts on stage. Some might think that the star of the night, Damian Marley has made his entrance. It turns out to be his MC, however, who does a couple of songs to whip the crowd into a frenzy of anticipation and lead in the lead man, the youngest son of the legendary Bob Marley.

Damian Marley. Photo: Terhi Hytönen

Finally the Jr. Gong enters the stage, with his massive dreadlocks reaching to his ankles. His music is powerful, even epic. The band and Marley begin the set with the song Confrontation, to remind us of the importance of  freedom, which we Nordic people sometimes take for granted. Listening to Damian Marley, one might be surprised by the diversity that reggae at its best can offer, as the to-the-point lyrics of More Justice give way to the gentle and laid back groove of Beautiful.

The trope is that reggae is supposed to be lazy and hazy, but nothing could be farther from the truth as Marley’s and Nas’s collaborations Dispear and Land of Promise hit the crowd, and get the people’s fists pumping in the air.

But then the sky starts to weep. Raindrops hammer the crowds, but they aren’t going to go anywhere: people pull out their ponchos, turn whatever they can find into improvised rain gear, or just let the rain fall and have the summer shower soak them to the core.  It’s the Jr. Gong’s birthday today.

-Is there any Bob Marley fans here? asks the young Marley. The crowd shouts their lungs out in approval and gets rewarded with Could You Be Loved, composed by the the greatest legend of reggae himself. Suddenly a young boy appears on stage to the song of the thousands strong attendance. One can’t help but to wear a gigantic smile and feel your heart move.

-One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright!

The band ends the gig with a grand finale, as Road to Zion leaves everybody in the audience aching for more Marley. One and all can feel their damp clothes and dribbling hair dry right up in the sun-like glow of the Jamaican beats. As the radiant performers leave the stage, the wet shirt clinging to the chest brings one back to reality again. Luckily this festival always features the next gig to bask in the glow of.

Marley’s enchanting backing vocalists went all in. Photo: Samu Hintsa

Text: Johanna Mikkola
Photos: Terhi Hytönen & Samu Hintsa
Translation: Reko Laurilehto

Joensuu Pop Musicians' Association · P.O.Box 240 · FIN-80101 Joensuu · Finland       Ask about Ilosaarirock Festival: if.kcoriraasoli@ofni