The Wailers take the stage for an awesome setOn Saturday I had the pleaseure of attending the Raggamuffin reggae event in Rotorua. I’m not going to do a review but I thought I’d share a few comments about the event, the people and the performances.

Firstly, the music was awesome from the local and the international acts. For the locals, my favourite was the Black Seeds, those guys can foot it on any international stage imho. If Cool Me Down doesn’t become an international reggae standard I’ll be very surprised. I didn’t think I’d like Arrested Development after listening to them on MySpace, but they rocked! The interaction with the crowd was awesome and I’d have no problem giong to see them on their own. As for the 75 year old Hip Hop artist doing dancing that would be the envy of many a limbo dancer, just WOW!

The Wailers were great and brought back happy memories of last year’s visit to Bob Marley’s house in Kingston and some great songs that will linger longer than my lifetime.

UB40’s music was as good as you would expect and their light show was professional and slick, but there was very little interaction with the crowd. It felt like they were going through the motions, but they were damn good motions. Not sure what they were thinking when they kept saying hello to the Maori people, hey there were lots of us there who aren’t Maori, but whatever.

So to the event. First question is how do you accidentally oversell by 7,000 tickets? I can understand why you would at an average of around $100 a seat, but the amenities could not cope. We stood in line at the Merch tent for around an hour and then found out that there was another one inside the arena with more product, then stood at that one for another 45 minutes. Average waiting time for food was another hour in line for lunch but close to 2 hours for dinner!

They promoted the fact that if you bought a ‘green’ water bottle you could get free refills all night. Problem was we could only find one caravan selling the water and the wait was, yep around an hour. It also took forever to find out how to get refills, which was actually just from a tap!

The line for an ID tag to say you were old enough to buy alcohol was probably around 1 1/2 hours, I would have thought for most people there, proving that you were over 18 would be a matter of a casual glance, not a 1 1/12 hour wait, so I didn’t go there and just as well because the toilet sanitation was a joke. After standing in one of the many lines for the use of a portaloo for about half an hour (just as well I wasn’t busting) I hopped into a filthy plastic room that smelled atrocious and every container that could hold liquid was overflowing with sewerage, just as well I didn’t have to sit down because that was not an option.

As for the crowd, they were awesome, more than 35,000 people and the only incident I saw over 12 hours was a person fainting, probably from dehydration. Everyone was friendly and I was offered a toke of weed a dozen times. An offer I didn’t take u, although it was a wonder I didn’t get stoned from the second hand smoke because it was everywhere, it was like one of those police fires. Just about every photo I took included a cloud of smoke. That was probably one of the reasons everyone was nicely chilled out.

Then on the way back there was the fight for buses. Rotorua put on free buses for everyone to get in and out of area which was great. The bus in was no problem, but to get back to the motel we had to compete with 35,000 people who also wanted buses. They really didn’t think that one through and the chilled out masses became a bit more aggressive as they didn’t really want to wait for hours for the next bus. Our driver thought everyone knew where they were going and didn’t take us back to the site we were picked up from as promised until we insisted and refused to leave the bus until he did.

The next morning Rotorua was packed. The average wait for breakfast was an hour and I think they were being generous, so I guess the hospitality did well out of it. Even if there were 5,000 locals, there were another 30,000 people who paid for lodgings, food and beverage and the many tourist attractions the regio has to offer.

So all in all, for the music and entertainment 9.8, for the amenities 5.5. Was it worth the trip? Hell yes!

It’s going to become an annual event, but I’m not sure who they could offer to get me to go back, it seemed like they had almost everyone who was anyone in the reggae genre, ya man, no problem.