North America’s largest annual Reggae, and Rhythm & Blues concert saw thousands of fans converging on Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, New York. The Groovin In The Park 9-year signature production has been known for its infusion of diversity in music and coveted line up of musical genius.’ I am of the opinion that its sustainability is cloned in rigorous planning and pragmatic in its execution.
The credible list of Major Sponsors and 2019 Official Partners of the event is indicative of the relationship that the Groovin organizers have fostered over 9 years. Congratulations!
An important aspect in the successful staging of the event was the exhibitors and vendors whose assorted paraphernalia and delectable dishes respectively, attracted patrons throughout the day. Despite the long lines and wait for food in particular, in the general area, patrons were notably patient.
It was apparent that the children were considered in the logistical planning of the event. Bounce houses were placed in a visible and safe location of the park.
From all indications, the overwhelming support for the June 30th, 2019 staging is largely due to the extensive marketing and continuous promotion leading up to the day of the event. These promotions not only appeal to people in the Metro New York area but similarly to international audiences.
As far as international artists’ inclusion on the main stage, Jamaica’s legendary Third World Reggae band famed for their eclectic repertoire (“Now That We Found Love”, ”96 Degrees in the Shade” and “Try Jah Love”) jammed the park with their electrifying performance by Stephen “Cat” Coore, Richard “Bassie” Daley, Norris Webb, Tony “Ruption” Williams, Maurice “Smooth Lion” Gregory, and lead singer AJ Brown, (with whom I had an interview) beneath the sizzling summer heat; the rain came shortly after and cooled the earth. I considered that perfect timing.
As the rain subsided, at approximately 3:48 pm the highly anticipated “Sound Masters Clash” between British born David Michael Rodigan of BBC radio and Jamaica’s Barrington ‘Barry G’ Gordon of Mello FM performance time was curtailed. Both consummate professionals, they complied with the stage management request and in quick succession Rodigan spin of “Satta Massagana” by The Abyssinians, “Don Dada” by Super Cat, “Driver” by Buju Banton ultimately gave way to Barry G “Pumpkin Belly” with Tenor Saw, “Trash and Ready” by Super Cat, and “Without Love” by Leroy Smart, were the most popular selections they played enough to keep the crowd yearning for the music of the good old days. I hope the organizers will consider their return for the 2020 event.
The daunting feeling of disappointment was soon overcome with another solid performance by award-winning Sizzla Kalonji whose energy and delivery of “Be Strong” “Solid As A Rock” and “Black Woman and Child” had the crowd rocking to the roots and reggae culture. Sizzla was the perfect addition to the day’s lineup.
For many fans, Keisha Cole’s broken-hearted themed songs were synonymous to their life experiences. Her eager fans waited patiently to hear their powerhouse American singer, songwriter, actress, producer, and television personality belt their favorite tunes. Her debut on stage revealed a beautiful and glowing expectant mother, Keisha sang her top hits “Heaven Sent” “Love” and “Let It Go.” From the crowd’s reaction, it was obvious that they were blindsided by her abrupt end, assuredly due to humid conditions and her advanced stage of pregnancy.
In true Jamaican fashion, Beresford Hammond did not disappoint in his set. The crowd obviously surprised that he was placed ahead of Michael Bolton, seized their moment and danced to his ‘musical trot’ with favorites – “Standing In My Way” “I Wish” “Falling In Love” “La La La” “I Feel Good” “Double Trouble” and “Putting Up Resistance.” Beres’ performances have often left his audiences mesmerized with his dusky, emotive voice that continues to remain relevant in the reggae industry.
Headliner, and multiple Grammy Award-winning singer, and songwriter Michael Bolton entered the stage as the final act. The Connecticut-born cool, calm and composed demeanor, his guitar, slung over his shoulder, Michael’s soulful voice and poignant lyrics “Stand By Me” “You Don’t Know What It’s Like” “Sitting On the Dock of The Bay” “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” to name a few had his audience eating from the palm of his hands. His alluring charm and sultry voice made its way into the hearts of lovers and those longing to be loved. Michael’s set ‘blazed in the summer heat’ and Groovin In The Park’s 2019 smoke screen stood firm.
While consideration is given to the occasional gaps during the scheduled band change segments, they were at times prolonged. However, as soon as the situation was rectified, the show continued as planned.
The day’s event was hosted by veteran Jamaican broadcasters, Paula Ann Porter Jones, of RJR 94 FM and Barrington ‘Barry G’ Gordon, of Mello FM.
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