20 August 2019
The weekend vibes continued into Monday as Rototom reached the halfway mark.
Monday saw a “British Invasion” of English groups both old and new across the two big stages. On the Main Stage, the fast-paced 2-Tone Ska of Coventry’s The Selecter got people jumping as the group celebrated 40 years in the business. Pauline Black and Arthur Gaps Hendrickson sang their own compositions like Too Much Pressure and The Whisper, as well as the Ethiopians’ Train to Skaville, the Maytals’ Pressure Drop and Justin Hinds’ Carry Go Bring Come. “Imagine Spain is beating England at football” joked Black as she encouraged the crowd to sing along.
Also celebrating the same milestone were deeply serious West London cultural reggae legends, Misty In Roots. In 40 years the group have rarely changed their heavy stepping rhythms or their lyrics of fire and judgment. Gratifyingly furnished by a full horn section, they began with one of their earliest songs, True Rastaman, based on Devon Irons’ Ketch Vampire. Though Misty and the Selecter play very different styles of Jamaican-influenced music, two of their songs have the same title – See Them A Come (But We Nah Run). They have also both used the James Bond theme in their output (the Selecter as a straight cover and Misty as part of their protest song about the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Cover Up).
The other Main Stage theme was the appearance of two energetic turban-wearing Rasta artists of the 90s and early 2000s. Turbulence asked the audience in Spanish if they were tired, before exhorting them to sing. He too saluted the rocksteady era, and James Bond, by riding the rhythm to 007 Shanty Town for his Ethiopia Awakes. Of course, the biggest forward came for his huge hit Notorious.
Headliner Anthony B, an artist who appeared at the first Rototom in Benicassim in 2010, was his usual high kicking, high energy self. Backed by his old friends, Austria’s House of Riddim band, he fired through the classics: Good Life, Water Pumping, Fire Pon Rome and World A Music. He also showed a tender side, covering John Lennon’s Imagine, and sitting on the monitors and singing the ballad The First Time. “Love is the answer! Love is the way!” he cried, and the size of the crowd at the Main Stage was as if the weekend had never ended.
Over on the Lion Stage, a younger English band, Gentleman’s Dub Club, out of Leeds, delivered a typically bouncing, confident show. Returning to Rototom after three years, the group combine the dapper appearance of 2-Tone with the heavy basslines of roots reggae. Like OBF the night before, they drew an enormous throng and left them baying for more.
But perhaps the highlight of the Monday, and maybe the festival, was Jamaican veteran singer and producer Linval Thompson, on the Lion Stage. Backed by the Strong Like Sampson band, featuring Santander’s Roberto Sanchez on keyboards, Linval has made a habit of sounding just like his records, over four decades after his career began. His hypnotic, honeyed voice and the powerful late 70s/early 80s rhythms reverently rendered by the band, were the perfect combination to crown the day.