With the amazing weather we’ve been enjoying this weekend, most of the city has already caught a serious case of spring fever. Then Austin Reggae Fest goes and drops a lineup announcement loaded with so much skank and groove we’re willing to forget that the event, one of Austin’s premiere celebrations of spring for over 30 years running, usually coincides with the annual end of tolerable temperatures. Headlining this year’s festival, which takes place April 17-20 at Auditorium Shores, is a trio of incredibly influential Jamaican musicians. Lee “Scratch” Perry, the mad scientist pioneer of dub music, whose early recordings with Bob Marley include the classic tracks “Soul Rebel,” “African Herbsman” and “Small Axe,” will make his debut appearance at the festival. Also debuting at the festival this year is dancehall king Yellowman and his Sagittarius Band. Rounding out the trio of top-billed acts is pioneering ska band the Skatalites who return to the festival on their 50th anniversary tour. Black Slate, New Kingston and the Slackers are also included in the fest’s first round lineup announcement.
Although Reggae Fest has a long history of programming internationally acclaimed reggae artists, its popularity can be attributed to the overall experience of the event as much as anything else. The festival boasts an extensive artists market with vendors selling everything from Bob Marley tees and summery hippie dresses to vast selections of (ahem) glassware. There’s a massive food court with ample international food offerings and laid back, positive vibes for days. It also draws one of the most diverse crowds of any Austin event. That’s a long-winded way of saying, people don’t necessarily come for the music. With this year’s lineup, however, they absolutely should.
Also, worth noting, Austin Reggae Festival is the biggest annual fundraiser for Capital Area Food Bank of Austin. Last year the fest raised over $160,000 to help feed hungry Texans. Tickets for this year’s Austin Reggae Festival go on sale Feb. 1 at 10 a.m. Single-day tickets are $15 and three-day passes are $40. For the past several years the festival has packed the city-center park to near-capacity. With this year’s standout lineup, if you’re planning on attending the fest, especially on Saturday, buying in advance is highly recommended.