Words by Sassy Ross
Musical tastes in the Caribbean are vast and diverse, from homegrown genres like Reggae, Kompa, Soca, and Salsa, to imported styles that include Jazz, Blues, Hip-Hop, Dance, and Country. Yes, West Indians love country music. Jamaicans made known their love for the musical genre of the American South with the 2011 release, Reggae’s Gone Country, an album on which some of the island’s most popular artists covered some of the genre’s most classic songs. Now, Virgin Islanders are showing their passion for harmonicas, guitars and honky-tonk with the Love City Country Music Festival, the first of its kind in the region.
Event promoter, Jamie Gladman, came up with the idea for the festival after realizing just how popular country music is in the region, from Puerto Rico all the way down to St. Lucia.
“There is actually a very large country music following among the West Indies culture dating back to the early 60’s when there was only one broadcast radio signal, I believe it was CBS Radio, and a good percentage of its format was country music. Fast forward 50 years and you can certainly hear an undeniable connection between country music and the islands.”
He adds that St. John is the perfect place to host such an event. With its beauty and laid-back lifestyle, the country possesses a particular romance and charm not found on larger, more developed islands. Scheduled during what is typically the offseason, the festival is meant to drive the local economy by making travel less expensive for visitors and bringing added revenue to local businesses.
A beach party at the Soggy Dollar Bar kicks off the festival weekend, which runs from May 14-16. Several local acts are part of a line-up that includes platinum-selling crooner, Jerrod Niemann, Grammy-nominated veteran country singer, Pat Green, and country-rock band, Loving Mary, to name a few.
“It’s a really cool thing to be able to spend a day on what very well could be one of the best places on earth,” says Gladman, “listening to live music from festival artists on the beach and enjoying a Painkiller or two.” A Painkiller, by the way, is a specialty rum cocktail of the Virgin Islands.
Love City Country Music Festival joins a growing list of big music festivals taking place on small islands, including the world-renown St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, Dominica’s World Creole Music Festival, and the Soul Beach Music Festival in Aruba, which celebrates Soul and R&B. Gladman is confident that the Love City Country Music Festival will become a staple on the Caribbean music festival circuit. “With the amount of support and outside interest in the festival for subsequent years this will be an annual event that just keeps getting better and better.”