If ever a spell had been cast, it was last Memorial Day weekend at the UCLA JazzReggae Festival.
Coco, the chanteuse of Danish electrosoul duo Quadron, took the stage in an emerald-green ostrich-feather overcoat despite the stickiness generated by summer's early arrival. As producer Robin Hannibal's shimmering synths flowed over the crowd like a breeze, Coco began to sing. Suddenly, the crowd, wilting in the midday sun, sat up, mesmerized by the liquid soul washing over them.
You can thank the all-volunteer staff of UCLA students for that magic moment. Not only is this the 25th anniversary of the longest-running music festival in Los Angeles, it's also the largest student-run festival in the country. And the students never see a cent from it — it's a not-for-profit event.
By its fourth year, the festival, which began as a one-day jazz concert at Sunset Recreation Center, added a second day to celebrate L.A.'s reggae scene. Now it takes place on UCLA's Intramural Field with art (last year there were graffiti artists working on pieces in real time) and community vendors. Then there's the lineup.
Last year, Q Tip performed such a raucous set he ended up with his knees bleeding. Raphael Saadiq laid his spiffed-up soul onstage. Nas and Damien Marley united the whole crowd in a cloud of weed.
A decidedly different affair this year: Wild card Lupe Fiasco headlines “Jam Day,” along with darlings Little Dragon and (most excitingly) the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble with Meshell Ndegeocello, Pharoahe Monch and, again, soothing spellbinders Quadron. “Reggae Day” features Steel Pulse, Gyptian, Tanya Stephens and the Wailing Souls. Better than your BBQ plans, yes?
The UCLA JazzReggae Festival is Sun.-Mon., May 29-30, 12-7 p.m., at UCLA's Intramural Field. All ages.