Written by: Alex King |Photography by Danny Swinson
Who would have thought in the small island town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina there would be a rich presence of reggae music? Well, located two minutes from the ocean, sits a community staple, The Lazy Pirate. A restaurant known for its beachfront bar & grill, tropical cocktails, sand volleyball courts, and live bands. Now, it is home to Reggae Festivus, a celebration of reggae music that brings together a diverse crowd of all nationalities and walks of life.
I have heard exceptional reviews of this event, so I decided to sit down with the founder Danny Swinson (the Lion of CB) to see what his motivation was to create such a unique event. Swinson explains, “It all began on a chilly fall Sunday seven years ago, November 28, 2010.” He recalls talking with David Pierce, the owner of The Lazy Pirate about upcoming events. Swinson, not an employee of the Pirate at the time was used as contract labor and an event coordinator. Pierce, looking to bring in customers during the offseason suggests hosting a night of country line dancing. Pointing to the Drifter’s Reef Hotel next door, Swinson draws inspiration from the colors of the hotel. Coral, teal, yellow, and Haitian tin art on the railings gives Swinson a Caribbean vibe, so he suggests a night of Reggae. Misinformed of the Reggae culture, Pierce refuses the thought. Though not alone, the owner of The Lazy Pirate associated Reggae with the bad press that Hip Hop and Rap cultures were currently receiving all over the news. Danny Swinson made it his mission to introduce and educate not only Pierce but others of Pleasure Island, on the positive vibes of Reggae music. While the owner still adamantly protested hosting a night of Reggae tunes, he allowed Swinson to post a poll on The Lazy Pirate’s Facebook page. Reggae went off the chart, and after seeing the voice of the masses, The Lazy Pirate began its Sunday Reggae Festival. When Jamie Aiken came on as Pierce’s business partner he suggested that it be called Sunday Reggae Festivus, and it’s been so ever since.
Swinson says, “One of the key reasons Reggae Festivus has been so successful, is my business partner and good friend Kimberly McSmith,” also known as the Night Nurse of Reggae Redemption, on 98.7 the Rock. Danny met Kimberly about 20 years prior, while working at a club called Smugglers during Reggae Fridays. Danny proposed she join with him as a co-host and key promoter of Reggae Festivus. Advertising on her Sunday morning radio show, The Night Nurse, would also help host Reggae Festivus. “And that’s how we began,” Danny says with a smile.
The opening show was Sunday April 3, 2011 with Selah Dubb. The band set up on the front top deck, right by the go-cart track. “I remember Timi Irie, from the band D.H.I.M., complaining about having to pick go-cart tire rubber out of his dreadlocks,” says Swinson. With humble beginnings, Reggae Festivus averaged 30 to 50 people a show. Two shows later, the Night Nurse was on stage with Swinson, and slowly attention was drawn from the Reggae Community, and the people of Pleasure Island.
Fast Forward, Sunday September 10, 2017, Swinson and his crew completed the last show of their seventh season. Reggae Festivus hosts both national and international artists, as well as being the longest running reggae show in North Carolina. Swinson says, “We are now tagged as the venue that welcomes all types of reggae from roots, to Cali rock reggae, and even reggaeton.” The Lazy Pirate is a family venue, in which everyone can feel entertained and listen to the very best in local, national, and international Reggae artists. “There is no other venue like The Lazy Pirate’s Reggae Festivus and I am very proud, yet humbled by what I have created,” says Swinson. Humbled to be labeled the CB Lion, by Mark Evangelist on one of his Podcasts, and proud to work with The Night Nurse, in bringing Reggae to one of the least likely places, Carolina Beach.
Having experienced Reggae Festivus myself, it’s amazing how the music and food are a perfect complement to one another. The Lazy Pirate serves everything from seafood to vegetarian. Try the mac and cheese at your own risk, because it’s both addictive and delicious. The first show kicking off the eighth season is April 1, 2018 with new bands, bigger giveaways, and contests. By the way, don’t be too surprised if you see the mayor of Carolina Beach operating the soundboard.
“We are the first happening spot on the right after you cross Snow’s Cut Bridge,” says Kimberly McSmith, the Night Nurse. Whether you’re local to Carolina Beach or just visiting, be sure to stop by The Lazy Pirate for Sunday Reggae Festivus.