Rocky Mountain Vibes

Reggae in the Rockies offers a hybrid festival of peace and positivity this weekend in Wyoming.

The Wyoming-Idaho border is an unlikely place for a reggae festival, but 2020 is an unlikely year.

“My wife and I got into the reggae scene a few years after we moved out here from Santa Cruz, California,” says Dave Walters, the creator and host of Reggae in the Rockies, a Labour Day weekend festival being held on his property and streamed on Side Door. He explains how a trip to Cancun, Mexico became an experience at Closer to the Sun, the seven-year-old giant reggae festival in Riviera Maya, an hour south.

“The reggae family we met down there was incredible,” says Walters. “My wife had a broken leg at the time and I was pushing her around the festival in a wheelchair and the crowd would part to let her go through, spreading the love and helping us out. This is a group of individuals that you can really connect with. We got pretty addicted.”

This year’s edition of Closer to the Sun was cancelled, but Walters still wanted his reggae fix. In the small town of Alpine, Wyoming, just south of Jackson Hole, he and his family own a property with some acreage and a 5,000-square-foot barn. “I had an idea in my head of how can we possibly make something work and provide music to our close friends and the reggae community, while still being safe and following COVID precautions,” he says.

Reggae in the Rockies features seven artists from around the United States, including The Expanders, members of Fortunate Youth, and Roots of Creation. They’ll play across two days for a socially distanced live audience in Alpine, and livestream on Zoom. The online portion will be produced by Sugarshack, a digital media production company out of Bonita Springs, Florida, for a high-quality, high-value stream.

This is not your average house show—it requires a sound system, backline, lighting, and film crew. In addition to flying in the musicians and putting them up, Walters is also happy to be offering professional technicians some work in this time. “All these people are out of work right now, so we’re putting a little bit of money in their pocket,” he says.

Closer to the Sun is planning on a 2021 return, but like everything else that will be up to the pandemic. In the meantime, Walters will do his best to recreate the festival’s positive vibes and big love in his own backyard.

“All the profits are going to the bands, we’re just providing the location and organization of the event,” he says. “The idea was well-received—a lot of the bands thought, we can’t do this in big cities right now but if we have a limited invite social distancing event in a place like this, maybe we can show the future of live music.”

Written by Tara Thorne

Tara Thorne is a writer, editor, and pop culture critic in Halifax.