Reggae at Smooth Rapids

The first weekend of August a kayaking and river floating outfit called Smooth Rapids hosts a Reggae Festival in McMinnville, Tennessee. The festival opens at noon on that Friday and closes the following Monday at noon.

McMinnville is another town of Appalachia, rich in southern culture, unspoken codes of conduct and whispered sins all washed away by Sunday morning service.  McMinnville is about an hour and a half drive from Nashville and before Chattanooga. The drive consists of sparsely populated towns decorated by smokey rolling hills off Interstate 24. McMinnville borders Manchester, Tennessee. Manchester is the home of Bonnaroo.

Reggae looks, smells and feels a little like Bonnaroo. You’ve got your “Centeroo,” food trucks and beer tent. Close your eyes and you might think you’re on the farm. Now, I’ve been to the farm 3 times. I’ve been going to music festivals since my tween years. Bonnaroo is the dog’s bollocks of music festivals. Tis a magical place.

Reggae has its own magic. It has something Bonnaroo cannot touch. At Reggae, you can have a bonfire at your camp site, drink your own beer, enjoy your camp and still hear the music with the stages being a short walk away.

I’m a music lover. No particular genre. I feel it on a spiritual and visceral level. Fuck, I sleep to it. Forget sleep, I fuck to it. Music tells my story when I can’t squeak a peep. It licks my wounds and gets me high. I’m also what some call “outdoorsy.” I daydream about walking barefoot in green grass, taking in nightly rhythmic chatter, symphonies of snores. Score, if there’s a bullfrog or two. I sleep my best sweaty in a tent with my stomach and chest pressed against mother earth, save for a few thin layers of fabric, dreaming of another day ahead. Its where I come to life. My father, son, and holy ghost.

This was my second year at Reggae. This year I went to Reggae with a couple friends and quickly made more upon setting up camp in the rear of the Smooth Rapids property, Area 51.

One of our new friends was a local named Michael.  Michael is a nomadic spirit with an easy smile, shoulder length dread locks and glasses. He regularly blessed the campgrounds with incense and donned a homemade Sawbriar pipe. Michael walked about playing his didjeridoo alerting all to his presence with uplifting melodic drones. The didjeridoo was a great addition to the many jam sessions that broke out at night.

Reggae is technically easy music. Its simple, but done well, its beautiful. Reggae is real talk. Its sexual. Its sunshine. The original punk rock.  Most of the music at Reggae at Smooth Rapids was decent.  A lot of the artists had a sound resembling Sublime with a touch of 311.  I did have my favorites that have made their way onto my spotify playlists.

The festival opened with an EDM artist, LVNKY, who had a total of three sets on Friday night. LVNKY was probably my favorite performer of the entire weekend. LVNKY’s music is a delightful mix of EDM and hip-hop influence punctuated with delicious bass, ambient rap lyrics and soulful R&B mixed in. Its highly dance-able, creating an almost irresistible urge to move. LVNKY would be the perfect late night set, inviting festies to dance with the moonlight under the influence of festival haze. With only 2 EPs released in 2015, LVNKY is a budding hopeful talent. Another favorite, Of Good Nature, also played Friday night. I’m a sucker for brass and beachy vibes. The 4 man band, which includes a horn player, guitarist, bassist and drummer, Of Good Nature offers both and an overall feel good lighthearted sound. They closed their set with a cover of 311’s “Summertime,” which the crowd erupted to in unison. Whyte Noise and CCDE are a couple of artists worth mention.  Their sets were fun and also dance-able.  Afroman closed out Sunday night, which seemed to be the highlight of most everyone’s weekend.

Reggae is a regular ficture of my summer. See you back at Area 51.

Of Good Nature


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