NW World Reggae Festival 2010 ADD

08/13 - 08/15 2010

Gracy's Bash 2023 - Festival Report

07/12/2023 by Gardy Stein

Gracy's Bash 2023 - Festival Report

Summer, sunshine, and the sweet sounds of Reggae music: this year's edition of Gracy's Bash was a true blessing for eyes, ears and spirit! Under a brilliant blue sky, Diedel Klöver's Yard Art yaad in a small town called Varel in Northern Germany welcomed around 1300 visitors from near and far to celebrate his wife's birthday. What started out as a party with friends and family almost two decades ago has turned into a veritable Reggae Festival with a small but special line-up, and today is no exception from this fine tradition.

My last time here was in 2018, and so I take advantage of our early arrival to go for a stroll around the beautiful premises that Diedel and Gracy call home. Few things have changed: the camping area is packed with people who are here since yesterday, enjoying the warm-up with Barney Millah from Berlin. A couple of stalls sell artworks, records, and accessories in red-gold-and-green. Two food-stands have been added to the main kitchen, and a total of three bars serve ice-cold drinks, heavily sought-after in the hot sun.

Most fun, however, is the re-discovery of Diedel's metal sculptures, from the leopard at the entrance, the alligator and the lion next to the stage to the tortoise and the flying eagle in the beach area. I wonder if the lizard and the penguins in the backstage area are new – the front half of the shiny polar bear definitely is.

At 5pm sharp, the gates open and an eager crowd, most of them beyond their '30s, comes flooding in. At the same time, Sheriff's Soundpatrol occupies the small stage and plays a fine selection to kick off the festival, and while few people start to dance right away, many find a shadow spot close to the speakers, bobbing with heads or feet to the beat.

Their attention turns to the main stage where, at 6:30pm, Joseph Blue Grant and his Still Cool Band start to play. The singer and steel pan player gives us a taste of his art, presenting songs from his new album Direct Flight as well as a calmer Nyabinghi and a faster Ska piece.

When the musicians leave the stage to much applause, the Irish singer & songwriter Owen Casey takes over at the small stage. Playing what he calls "Celtic Roots Reggae", he switches between guitar, keyboard, loop station and flute, mixing Irish folk melodies with the unmistakable Reggae one drop. Between older songs from his 2014 album The Dawning (e.g. One and Miriam), newer pieces like Little Darlings (which he wrote on his way home to his wife and kids one day, as he tells us) and a special treat, the as yet unreleased track Easy Enough which he recorded with Sam Gilly, he makes the audience dance in the late afternoon sunlight.

Thus warmed up, the guests flock around the main stage once more, as Treesha and her Run It Band featuring Kira and Lina from Conscious Culture on backing vocals get ready for their show. "I've been here with Gentleman before once, but this is the first time that I get to perform for you on my own!" she beams, diving into her set with the same joyful energy that marked her gig at the Summerjam last week. Tracks like Juice, Issa Good Look, Fresh Like Me and Evolution are favorably received, and all hands are raised with applause after each. A special moment occurs during her last song, the Bay-C collab Rude Gal Swing, when she invites dancers from the audience on stage.

"Feel free to join us up here, this is a free stage, a family stage!" she says, and indeed three young men follow the invitation. When the band leaves the stage after that, moderator Dr. Ring Ding asks if we want more, and yes, we do! During the final tune, a surprise awaits us: guest artist Vido Jelashe grabs the mic and delivers a fiery freestyle, and Treesha visibly enjoys the vibe before waving her final goodbye. While darkness falls, Sheriff's Soundpatrol takes over once more, playing some old-school Reggae & Dancehall tunes by Buju and Sizzla, and also some rare ReggaeJam Dubplates. Niceness!  

At 10pm, it's time for today's headliner: Horace Andy, the living legend, is about to step on stage! His band just finished the soundcheck, and the following musicians have taken position behind their instruments: Anthony "Drumtan" Ward on drums, Jahmel Ellison on bass, Steven "Marley" Wright on guitar, Cyrus Richard on keys and Henry "Buttons" Tenyue aka Matic Horns on trombone. To the wonderful soundtrack these artists provide, singer Horace "Sleepy" Andy starts to sing tracks like Man Next Door or the well-known Money Is The Root Of All Evil, and his humble, almost shy demeanor on stage explains his nickname.

The energy is on, however, especially when he comes to the gems of his catalogue later in the show. "I dedicate the next song to you, it's my favorite!" he announces Every Tongue Shall Tell, and both the subsequent Skylarking (released on his seminal album by the same name, back in 1972) and Cuss Cuss are accompanied by sing-alongs, loud shouts and, yes, whistles! No way the audience lets this master go just yet, and he re-appears for an encore of Leave Rasta People Alone and Ain't No Sunshine.

Time to get a drink and some food, have a chat with friends and listen to another set of Sheriff's Soundpatrol, this time with DJ Trixta on the turntables and Sheriff on the mic. Just before midnight, the final act is ready to play: the Irie Nations Roots Connection! This is a combination of musicians from the established Sofa Connection (Tom Bennecke and Markus Dassmann on guitar, Diedel on bass, Hene Marheineke on drums, Catti Groth on sax and vocals and Piet Abele on keys), the Jamaican vocal trio KushArt as well as Dr. Ring Ding on trombone and our host, Sista Gracy, announced as "the Reggae Queen of Friesland".

Together these artists take us on a joyful ride through different musical styles and pieces, and the joy they spread on stage is infectious. Catti sings a track called Music Knows No Borders, Gracy intones Culture's International Herb and her own Spiritual And Humble, Dr. Ring Ding delivers a sweet version of John Holt's A Love I Can Feel and a freestyle on the Real Rock Riddim, and KushArt round it all off with harmonious songs like Magnet To Steel or Foundation. A worthy closing of a day of musical celebration!

We leave the festival grounds full of gratitude for this experience – a heartfelt THANK YOU to Gracy, Diedel, the musicians, and all the hardworking helpers. U laaaaarge!