Thousands of folks descended on the island and swayed and shimmied in the three reggae tents and in between the trees. Stalls wrapped around the festival, dishing up everything from Yemen’s finest dining to Jamaican lime squid to fresh corn on the cob.
Minjerribah country was swamped with people, and there was representation from all places. The Quandamooka people welcomed everybody each night and the deep focus on respect set the tone for the entire festival. Family took on the most marvellous meaning; an enormous collection of old friends, new friends, children with hundreds of aunts and uncles all sprawled across the grass nodding in time to the ever-present reggae beat.
The whole place was on island time, and everybody was determined to use their time to enjoy themselves. There were a great many workshops set up throughout the day, most of them craft and health based. Groups of harem pants in earth tones saluted the sun and enthusiastic fingers wove baskets and plaited feathers into hair.
An enormous lionhead, woven together with straw and slats of bark guarded the entrance of the DJ tent and a white canoe reigned supreme in the centre of the whole festival.
Careful thought had been put in to the set up and it became more and more apparent that the Island Vibe was not just in the mood, but in the detail. Appreciating the small things and easy smiles were the order of the day. Walking through the trees, slipping on the silky sand, the beat throbbing from inside the grounds and the waves keeping their own time against the beach, it was the fairy lights threading through the trees that made the festival not only about music, but about magic.
Friday night and Oka took the stage at Island Vibe festival on North Stradbroke Island. They weaved dub, electronica and hip hop genres into their fast and thick sounding reggae. These slow funk natives finished with a crew of young dancers climbing onstage and mixing in with the celebration. The crowd loved Oka’s connection to the people.
The Strides’ Afrobeat-reggae style had a hip hop base that was melodic and funky. The Strides are so active on stage it looks like the crowd has charged up there to join them, but it’s just that all ten pieces of band dance on stage as hard as the crowd does below. The horn section of this band is phenomenal; from start to finish they blasted out and soared above the heavy beats.
Island Vibes isn’t just about the music, though. The pathways in and around the festival are lined with dance workshops, street performers in costumes and on stilts, fire twirlers, clothing and jewellery stalls, and a sculpture of a huge roaring lion head. The crowds in attendance are split across all ages with loose hats and billowing dresses the most noticeable style.
The clouds were thick by Sunday with rain tempting to repeat last year’s downpour. It may have just been the weather but the unified reggae chanting and ritualistic dance moves taking place at Island Vibes seemed to have kept the rain away.
Day three of the festival and the wild energised dancing of day one and two has subsided into slow grooving twists. Roots band Fyah Walk make you dance and sing to their positive messages. These Byron Bay locals create heavy bass lines and solid beats in a true Rastafarian manner. It’s a textured sound, like running your hand through a thick head of dreads.
Photo: Lachlan Douglas
Go to Scenstr to check out the photo's from the festival.