Phenomenon: Collie Buddz performed at Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts on Friday as part of his tour. *Photo by Zakee Vaughn
Phenomenon: Collie Buddz performed at Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts on Friday as part of his tour. *Photo by Zakee Vaughn

Reggae fans braved torrential downpours and howling winds for a chance to take a toke of reggae star Collie Buddz on the eve of a
“national holiday” for lovers of all things cannabis. 

A wave of rain drenched young fans, mostly Caucasian, poured into the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) just as the sunny skies turned dark and opened up. 

Soggy Converse sneakers and multi-coloured T-shirts did not put a damper on their excitement in the least. 

The energy levels were through the roof at the standing room only venue, located on one of the most popular stretches of world famous South Street.  

“I love Collie Buddz,” said Jen Blake, 23, who attended the Philly leg of the Light it Up tour by herself. “I love his music of course but his swag and vibe are incredible. Seeing him tonight, of all nights, makes it even more amazing.”

Blake was not the only concertgoer in the know that the Friday night show fell on the eve of April 20, or more affectionately known to American weed smokers as “420”. 

Plumes of “Mary Jane” smoke filled the air from the very moment Collie Buddz took centre stage to uproarious applause.

“For those of you who don’t know, I go by the name of Collie Buddz and I come to you all the way from the small island of Bermuda,” said the reggae star, who wore a red plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up and dark circular sunglasses.  “We came here to party, right?”

The emcee was able to captivate the frenzied crowd who nearly levitated from the ground when he performed his smash hit Come Around

For more than an hour he worked every inch of the stage, hands in the air, spitting rhyme after rhyme to the delight of a very involved audience. 

They sang word for word, in many cases swaying to the music and stomping their feet in sync with the bass guitar. 

The light from glowing cell phone screens could be seen from every angle of the venue. As the evening progressed, the hard wood floors became slick with spilled beer of dancing reggae fans. 

The Bermuda phenomenon was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening, but his talented band New Kingston nearly stole the show. 

The Brooklyn based family band of three brothers and father opened up the evening with a high energy set before manning their own merchandise table of tank tops, hoodies and CDs while Cris Cab performed. 

They soon returned to the stage to back Collie Buddz, also adding stirring vocal performances throughout the set. 

The voices of the three brothers and their insanely vigorous musicianship enhanced the set greatly, especially during lulls where the headliner’s set risked being monotonous. 

Their soul stirring rendition of No Woman No Cry moved the festive crowd to chorus in octaves well beyond their reach.

“It feels really good to be back in Philadelphia,” said Buddz, between songs. 

“It’s been a minute but it feels so good to be back here.”

His fans returned the love with another rousing ovation.

“It’s almost four twenty so y’all know I have to do another ganja song right,” he continued.

At the stroke of midnight he looked down at his watch and announced to his fans, “it’s four twenty everybody”, to which they threw their hands in the air in unison and screamed January 1 style. 

A young Asian couple in the rear of the venue kissed passionately as if they were just joined in holy matrimony.  

The juxtaposition of their romantic make-out session against the screaming heads and thumping rhythms was comic relief for Ryan Hoover, 21, and a few of his buddies who trooped into Philly from a nearby suburb. 

For Hoover and his crew, attending the Collie Buddz concert was not so much about the music or even the artist for that matter. It was all about the hook-up.

“I’ve heard some of his music before but I’m not that big of a fan at all,” said Hoover. 

“But we knew that Collie Buddz  would bring out a lot of hot chicks who love his music and who like to have fun so we’re here!” 

Mister Mann Frisby is the author of four books, a songwriter, and can be found at the centre of any dance floor when reggae comes on. He resides in Philadelphia with daughter Skye, 11.

• Bermuda Sun coverage of the Light It Up Tour is sponsored by Heineken