Date: Monday, February 17th 2014
What: Tribute to the Reggae Legends Festival
Line Up: Alborosie, Don Carlos, Horace Andy, Dezarie, Midnite, Sly &Robbie, Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser, Bitty Mclean, Tribal Seeds, Protoje, Jah9, Piracy Conspiracy, Sister Nancy & more
Venue: Valley View Casino Center. San Diego, CA
No stranger to working live shows & festivals, Pier photographer David Norris has been covering live events for The Pier since 2009. In the 5 years he’s been a photographer for The Pier, Norris has developed fantastic networking relationships with some of Reggae’s most prestigious performers. Plus, Norris is the point of contact for The Pier in submitting live show requests to artists, for the rest of The Pier staff – He takes a lot of time out to make sure as many shows & festivals are promptly covered by members of The Pier across multiple states. So as Editor of The Pier, I found it shocking that for the first time in the 5 years of Norris covering events for The Pier, that he decided that the Tribute to the Reggae Legends Festival wasn’t worth his time, especially if it is being ran by Makeda Cheatom or her right hand, Jesse Graham.
For the 2014 Tribute to the Reggae Legends Festival, The Pier was invited out by Don Carlos and his manager, Jafada. Jafada, who was in Las Vegas during this event, put us in touch with his assistant, Fenton as our point of contact for the night. They have always been welcoming of The Pier in providing access to document their live performances. Unfortunately, The Pier wasn’t enabled with the pre-approved access to document this event, due to the disrespectful neglect from the festival promoters, Makeda Cheatom & her right hand, Jesse Graham.
This has nothing to do with any artist, band or the impressive lineup that included live performances from acts such as Don Carlos, Alborosie, Midnite, Tarrus Riley, Tribal Seeds & more. We even heard about Kyle McDonald from Slightly Stoopid jumping on stage with Alborosie & Don Carlos during their live sets. We have nothing to say with how the live show was – for all we know, it was the GREATEST show to rock the reggae world, but unfortunately, we weren’t granted our pre-approved access to document it.
The Pier has been declined access to shows & festivals in the past – that’s not the issue here. It becomes an issue when we find out from Don Carlos & their management, that they had passes waiting for us ahead of time & we get rejected upon arrival by the promoters. When Norris arrived to grab his passes, the promoters of the festival made him wait outside for more than 3 hours while blatantly ignoring him & preventing our pre-approved access. Norris arrived at 2:00pm & gave up more than 3 hours later, just before 5:30pm, and went home; remember, the festival started at 2:00pm.
In addition to that non-sense, Norris shared his frustration in line with radio contest-winners who were also waiting to get into the festival. Those fans had also been waiting for more than 3 hours outside to get in, even after the festival began. So I guess if you win tickets on the radio to this festival or if you’re a Reggae-Rock media outlet there to cover this festival, you get to win a 3+ hour wait in line for passes, 3 hours after the event started!
Here’s what David Norris had to say on his experience with trying to gain access:
After waiting in line for almost 2 hours, I decided to follow up with Fenton, Don Carlos’s manager on duty, for our approved access to cover the event. Fenton told me that the security backstage was acting like it was a jail! Fenton walked backstage to try and get our passes and had to walk back empty handed, conveying a message from the promoters that The Pier had to get in the regular, general admission line and find “the guy” by the pit-entrance to get our pass.
So I got in line, even though I knew what was going to happen. After a 25 minute wait in the main line, I get to the front & security wouldn’t let me through with my photography gear. From there, Fenton told me I should ask for Makeda Cheatom or Moss Jacobs, the festival promoters! When I tried to ask security, they told me they can’t call anyone and that I would have to reach them myself – That’s when I saw Jesse Graham, who is Makeda’s right hand!
Jesse Graham is a guy who doesn’t seem to like me at all. Any time he has to help me, he makes me wait when it’s not necessary & continues to treat me like pure crap. Whats frustrating, is I’ve known Jesse Graham since before working with The Pier and I’ve provided FREE photography services for him & Makeda at various reggae shows & festivals they put on in the past – Always the same story with this guy continuing to treat me like crap!
I didn’t want to ask Jesse at all, but I’d already been there for 2 hours at that point, so I tried anyway. Well, he repeatedly ignored me when I called out his name for assistance. Jesse then walked with someone else whom he had known, helping them get a pass, knowing I was there calling out his name. Anytime I’ve covered an event put on by Makeda & Jesse, this is how Jesse treats me and with no apology or explanation.
I tried again to get his attention, so he can talk to Makeda for me. He walked towards the gate where I was standing, and quickly got on his phone. So when he walked by me, I said, ‘Jesse can I please talk to you?’ His response back to me was, ‘Sorry I’m on the phone’, and kept walking past me. Directly after that, Jesse started talking to someone else while he was ‘on the phone’, continuing to blow me off. At that point, it had been more than 3 hours of my time being jerked around and I finally decided this wasn’t worth my time & I left.
Thank you Fenton, Jafada & Don Carlos for your efforts…
Pretty rough outing for David Norris trying to bring all of you fans some coverage & I’m sure we could all relate to his frustrations. Jafada told Norris following the event “Don Carlos had your passes and told the festival promoters when you’re here, to come get Don. They didn’t tell you that because they had some other journalist there. I would write about how they blew you off when Don Carlos had your passes & you were his guest.” Jafada went on to explain “They also did not give Kyle McDonald (of Slightly Stoopid) all access, only general tickets and he was coming to perform with Don Carlos. It was Alborosie who took Kyle backstage, to see Don.”
We’re use to Jesse Graham being an ass with that sense of entitlement that no one wants to be around, but we were still prepared to cover the event, excited to celebrate the music with positive coverage. Instead of writing a 1,000 words recapping some great performances complete with photos, David Norris spent the night outside the venue for more than 3 hours, being blown off by security & ignored by Jesse Graham, all while the event was taking place.
With all of the growing Reggae festivals that are taking place each year, it’s safe to say that The Pier will keep this one off our list, regardless of the line-up. As long as Jesse Graham is someone who gets to play ‘important’ by ignoring those there to help cover his event, we’ll pass! We would rather go fly kites in the middle of the desert. If anything, it really makes us appreciate events such as California Roots Festival. This is a festival & event that embodies more of that family community & environment, treating others with respect, rather than arrogance & self-entitlement.
We’re not saying fans should avoid this Festival like the plague and save their money for other events in the region & we’re not saying fans should avoid winning tickets via local Radio contests so they can wait more than 3 hours outside of the Festival. Nor are we saying this as a warning to other bands, publications, vendors or sponsors who may want to work with Makeda & Jesse on future events. We’re just trying to say that maybe Makeda Cheatom and Jesse Graham, should take a trip up to Monterey this May and shadow Dan Sheehan & Jeff Monser during Cali-Roots so they can take notes on how REAL promoters treat people who are there to proactively document their event. This may have been the 33rd Annual Tribute to the Reggae Legends festival, but you wouldn’t have known it if it wasn’t dispalyed all over the posters & flyers.