One Ocean, One Sea, Two Beers, 2,000 islanders and 16 x 18" bass bins
Leave Puerto Rico, fly East and just a little South and you’ll touch down on the twin islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. Long a part of the British Empire, both earned their independence over the past several decades and are one of the better kept secrets in the Caribbean. The Islanders—they refer to themselves as Kittians–enjoy a paradise of warm waters. The Caribbean meets the Atlantic in the straits between these two sister islands. St. Kitts has the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other; the two bodies of water couldn’t be more different. Cooler, more aggressive and turbulent the Atlantic grinds itself against the soft, gentle Caribbean. 10 minutes away by car, the Caribbean features calm, sandy beaches with still water lapping at the sand. We spent as much time as possible on the Caribbean beaches.
So what does this have to do with bass? At 5 a.m. Monday morning, June 10th, 2019 the white sand beaches of the Carambola Beach Club turn into ground zero for Breaking Dawn, St. Kitt’s own celebration of Mardi Gras and a wonderfully warm, exciting music festival. It takes two days to setup, two days to break down but for 8 hours it becomes the epicenter of serious bad ass bass. Fueled by equal measures of Carib and Stag beer, a desire for good times as only the islands can deliver, and the Caribbean’s own warmth of spirit and music, Breaking Dawn brings the whole island together.
Here’s the recipe for big bass fun: take one perfect, fine, white sand beach, add a couple thousand lovely people, one of the Caribbean’s best sushi restaurants, a full stage and 16 x 18” bass bins and about 10,000 watts of amplified power and you have bass that seemingly powers the whole of the outdoors. And drives the energy of the crowd, which is something we’ve been doing for years on the home audio front but it brings it home in a more visceral way when you experience big, deep bass live. ALL the energy in the festival derives from two principal sources, the deep throbbing reggae bass and the talented musicians and singers who supply the human energy to light up that corner of the Caribbean.
We stopped by Carambola the night before during sound check and the festival organizers were kind enough to let us revel in the staccato waves of energy that were periodically unleashed by the sound reinforcement system. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba bump-ditty bump-ditty pitched deep and low with alternating currents of fast-edged middle bass attack, followed by the deeper rhythms of a Fender Precision bass bringing it home. There’s something about a fretless bass that seems to pitch it deeper, smoother, mellower, although this observation has no basis in physics as the neck’s length remains the same. But it must be why so many reggae bassists run fretless. Even the vocalist’s mikes were goosed with EQ that reinforced extremely deep bass. “Check-check, check-check” through a big stack of bass towers goes through one’s chest cavity with force on a moonlit beach.
By 10 a.m. things have dwindled down as lightweights drift off in groups of 3 to 5 to a well-earned sleep. Or to imitate the Atlantic pushing up against the Caribbean, each in their own way. I reflected on the notion that bass is responsible for some 95% of the energy in music, then decided that surely the last 5% must be supplied by great sushi and bottles of ice cold Stag and headed off to sleep myself.