Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Austin Reggae Fest: Good vibes for a great cause

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 16, 2014

As the calendar creeps up on April 20 a.k.a. 4.20, likely the least productive day of the year in college towns across America, it’s time again for Austin Reggae Fest. Along with being a fantastic celebration of spring on what is traditionally one of the final temperate weekends of the year, the event is the largest annual fundraiser for Capital Area Food Bank of Central Texas. Last year the festival raised over $260,000 to help the nonprofit fight hunger.

The festival also draws arguably the most diverse crowd of any Austin music event. From hula hoop girls, aging wizards and a full spectrum of dreadlocks to clean-cut college students and soccer moms, it seems like everyone shows up.

“Reggae does have an appeal to people of all kinds from all over the world,” said Angela Tharp, the fest’s booker and Austin’s top authority on reggae music who has owned downtown reggae club Flamingo Cantina for more than two decades. The “consciousness of the music” which, in the spirit of pioneer Bob Marley, often advocates for peace and equality, is key to the universal appeal, she said. “People come to my venue sometimes and they’re like, ‘Oh my god I feel like I’ve been in church, but I’ve been in a club,’” she said.

The fact that the music also tends to advocate marijuana probably doesn’t hurt either.

This year’s Austin Reggae Fest takes place from Friday to Sunday at Butler Park (Auditorium Shores, the fest’s home venue is still under construction). The festival is headlined by the Easy Star All-Stars and Inner Circle on Friday, Rootz Underground on Saturday and Everton Blender and the Yard Squad Band on Sunday. Tickets are $15 adv. and $20 at the gate. More information.

Read more about this year’s Austin Reggae Festival here (paywall) or just get your irie vibes on with our Austin Reggae Fest Spotify playlist below.