Kent hosts reggae jam festival


Dontty Lakina, a drummer of Outlaws 1&1, performs for the crowd at Ray’s Place in downtown Kent, Ohio, for Reggae Fest on Saturday, April 23, 2016.

Angelo Angel

Despite Friday’s rain, Kent Reggae Jam Festival held its annual celebration throughout the downtown area.

The festival celebrated reggae music throughout 13 locations. Water Street Tavern, Tree City Coffee & Pastry, Zephyr Pub, The Pufferbelly Ltd. and 157 Lounge hosted music according to their aesthetics.

Mike Beder, a member of the Crooked River Arts Council, said that the festival’s inspiration came from Ray’s Place owner Charlie Thomas, who is a big fan of reggae.

“The upstairs of Ray’s used to be a separate bar called Mother’s Junction that featured quite a few reggae acts,” Beder said. “A few years back, he brought a reggae act back and Dominick’s brought one in on the same night as well.”

Soon enough, the theme caught the attention of Crooked River Arts Council, which expanded the festival to include more venues and incorporate more styles of music. The Crooked River Arts Council is also behind popular festivals such as BeatleFest and BluesFest.

And ever since the first Kent Reggae Jam Fest in 2012, the festival has been growing steadily over the years and has gained a following within the Kent community.

Frank and Lez Kehn, a married couple who reside in Kent, have been to the festival since its conception and look forward to it every year.

“Charlie, who owns Ray’s, got us into reggae a long time ago,” Frank said, with Lez stating that they’ve gone to the festival every year.

Although the festival took place at several locations, Pufferbelly had opened the festival with a musical performance by Dreadlock Dave of The Water Band at 5 p.m.

And as the day grew into the night, more people began to stroll the windy streets of downtown Kent as they followed the sound of reggae and jams that escaped from the many venues hosting the festival.

Joel McAdams, a bartender at the Zephyr Pub, said that they were able to recommend a band they felt would work best with the vibe of the pub.

“We usually get a phone call our manager arranges for a live band to come in,” McAdams said.

Human Nature, an Akron-based reggae groove band, performed at the Zephyr Pub. They played its first show with the festival four years ago. Max Eger, a guitarist with the group, was excited to play in this year’s reggae festival.

“It’s good when you have people who want to have a good time and listen to live reggae music,” Eger said. “We’ve always had a great time playing music for the festival every year.”

Robert Dray, a resident of Kent, said he loves coming to the Zephyr Pub but the offer of a live reggae band makes his night even better.

“I love coming out to drink and who doesn’t like listening to good live music,” Dray said.

Angelo Angel is an entertainment reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].