Miami Beach

Urban Beach Week

A concert, parties and celebrities help make final days of Urban Beach Week a blast

 

dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

The Urban Beach Week revelers needed a rest Sunday morning. But by the time the sun went down, they were on their feet and ready to party.

The venue: the Best of the Best concert at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.

Reggae and hip-hop enthusiasts braved late afternoon showers, cramming the aisles and lining the walls. Some carried umbrellas and wore ponchos in the colors of the Jamaican flag. When the music started, they sang along and wound their waist lines to the beat.

“Hip hop and reggae together?” said first-time concert-goer Alyssa Savery, 17. “That’s the perfect combination.”

The concert ran late. Long-awaited artist Shaggy came on at 9:20 p.m., an hour behind schedule with a scarf in his native Jamaica colors hanging out of his back pocket. He was a crowd pleaser as he introduced his hit "Mr. Bombastic" with a heavy metal guitar intro.

"There's a party at Best of the Best right now," Shaggy yelled to a cheering crowd.

He and other reggae artist became a refreshing reminder of the contributions of reggae music, which in recent years has become an embarrassment for Jamaica as a number of top selling dancehall reggae artists from Vybz Kartel to Buju find themselves arrested and charged with everything from murder to drug trafficking, respectively.

"We've gotten such a bad rap these last couple of years," said Tracii McGregor, a publicist who has represented a number of reggae artists and represented Best of the Best Sunday.

"Reggae music has helped make Jamaica what it is," she added. "Jamaica is celebrating 50 year this year, and music is a big part of that. It is wonderful to beable to honor that here in this concert."

Mr. Vegas, a reggae artist, agrees. Before his performance, he plugged his new album "Sweet Jamaica," a tribute to reggae and dancehall.

"People go through obstacles, and these artists are no different," he said, wearing a lilac colored tailored suit. "But we want people to know the music is still there."

The party mood didn’t stop with the music. Thousands of concert-goers then streamed back to South Beach for a slew of after-parties.

The revelry rolls on Monday, Memorial Day.

More than 250,000 people are in South Florida for the hip-hop/rap festival known as Urban Beach Week. The event, held each year on Memorial Day weekend on Miami Beach, draws celebrities, hip-hop fans and revelers from around the country.

Over the past decade, Urban Beach Week has become known for its over-the-top parties and fashions. But past years have been marred by bad behavior and growing tensions between partygoers and police. Last year, Miami Beach police fatally shot a man in a car. Several people were injured by the gunfire, including a man who is now suing the city.

This year’s crowd has been more orderly than previous crowds, police said Sunday.

Seventy-nine people were arrested on Saturday – about 30 fewer than were arrested on Saturday last year, police said.

The total number of arrests was 228 as of Sunday morning. Last year, the figure was 244.

Officers said they removed 25 guns from the streets.

Some partygoers said they could feel a difference.

“It’s a little calmer because of what happened last year,” said Elizabeth Lopez, 22.

Cynthia Acosta, a Miami Beach resident, said police and fire departments were fast on their feet. Acosta had to call paramedics after her teenage daughter fell ill early Saturday morning. To Acosta’s surprise, they arrived in minutes.

“Everyone was doing their job, and I witnessed first hand the residents were the first priority of the city,” she said.

But this is Miami, and no Urban Beach Week would be complete without a bizarre twist.

Ironically, it happened on the Miami side of the MacArthur Causeway.

On Saturday afternoon, police shot and killed a naked man who had allegedly attacked another man and was eating his face, witnesses told police.

The victim remained hospitalized at Ryder Trauma Center on Sunday. His condition was unknown.

The macabre incident made headlines worldwide. It was the topic du jour on social media sites like Facebook and even spurred a new Twitter handle: @TheMiamiZombie.

It was no surprise that partygoers were slow to get started Sunday. Saturday’s festivities lasted until sunrise, and in some cases, longer.

Early Sunday afternoon, couples napped on picnic blankets. Muscular men did chin-ups in Lummus Park. Guys rolled down Ocean Drive on their skateboards.

It could have been any weekend in South Beach, but for the barricades, police watch towers and mobile command centers.

Heatherine Crooks and three of her friends sunned themselves atop a rock wall in the park, margaritas in hand. They had partied at Mango’s Tropical Cafe on Ocean Drive until 4 a.m. the night before, they said.

“They played some reggae, which we appreciated,” said Crooks, who is Jamaican. “We danced our feet off.”

To combat the partying, there were also some attempts at salvation.

Kyle Sandberg, 26, stood in the intersection at Eighth and Ocean and tried to convince the people passing by that their evils ways and gangsta rap have doomed them.

“Love compels us to tell you that you’re on your way to hell,” his sign read in big red letters.

His message wasn’t particularly well received.

“Hallelujah,” one passerby yelled sarcastically.

Sandberg said he and his friend Doug Berry had intended to preach a message of love and freedom. But they had to abandon their post early after an angry crowd gathered in front of them and police threatened to throw them in jail.

A half block north, Luis de Jesus and half a dozen Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Panamanian friends came out for what once used to be a weekly congregation of percussionists. They beat Afro-Cuban rhythms on congas and struck a cowbell and clave.

Mary Quintana from Hialeah and Matt Muentes from Coral Gables danced until they were out of breath.

“This is culture,” said Edwin Torres in between strikes of the congas.

Then, there was Pitbull.

The Miami music mogul met with hundreds of fans at Gulf Liquors on 17th Street and Alton Avenue.

Fans lined the block waiting for Mr. 305. One woman shouted that she had been waiting for three hours for the opportunity to hug her idol.

Perhaps no one was happier to meet Pitbull than Millie Diaz.

Diaz, who was born without vocal chords, flew from Salt Lake City through a grant from the Make a Wish Foundation.

“She is in seventh heaven right now,” said Isabel Feliciano, Diaz’s mother.

But the biggest bash of the day was by far The Best of the Best concert. The concert line-up also included Shaggy, Funk Master Flex, Fat Joe and reggae singer Marcia Griffiths.

At one point, soca artist Iwer George led the crowd in a jump and wave. Later, the crowds rocked hard to the dancehall beats of the hip-hop DJs.

Then it was back to South Beach for more partying on Monday — closing day for Urban Beach Week.

Miami Herald writers Daniela Guzman, Kate Howard, Kristofer Rios and Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.

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