Memorial Day weekend came and went in the U.S. of A, and while many (if not all) of us were remembering those brave souls who helped freedom circulate, Californians, as well as those visiting the golden state, took to the California Roots Festival in Monterey. Whether you enjoy reggae for the style, the unity, or the party, there is a lot to say about the impact of a reggae festival. With the holiday weekend, a phenomenal line-up of bands from all over the country, and positive vibes, the Third Annual California Roots Festival rocked the Monterey Fairgrounds with some of the most irie and rock-influenced live music!
The weekend started with the exploration of the main stage, second stage, and Turf Club stage. The latter stage included some good California bands, such as Zen Robbi, HB Surround Sound, and Clear Conscience. The second stage appeared shortly after. This stage was set up in a nice grassy area and included performances by Anuhea, Mishka, and The Green. Also included were many favorite Caliâ€™ bands, such as Thrive, Fortunate Youth, and Sono Vero. Heading towards the main stage, there were a bunch of vendors selling products suitable for the reggae scene, including jerseys from Selah International and hemp jewelry from a vendor called Mama Dubs: Made with Love. HI Roots started the weekend on the main stage. This San Diego-based band blends reggae-influenced music with hip-hop. The boys started the weekend off right with a new song called, â€œFeelingâ€. They also played other good songs like â€œIf You Knewâ€, and â€œ808â€. In my personal opinion, they did well pumping up the crowd with a 30 minute set, especially when considering the slightly gloomy weather.
Next, I checked out The Simpkin Project, one of my favorite bands, who was playing at the second stage. This band hails from Huntington Beach, CA and utilizes a bluesy guitar in their roots reggae. Their set included â€œCheck Yourselfâ€, â€œHarderâ€, and â€œEverything You Wantâ€.
At the Turf Club stage, I caught Beyond I Sight. I am familiar with their roots reggae because they keep their music strictly roots. However, I didnâ€™t get to finish watching their set as I was with others and decided to go to the campsite located within the fairgrounds.
The option to camp this year for the festival was great! People were either enclosed in spaces designed for tents and separated by little cement walls, or they were in the RV parking lot. I had the opportunity to camp out near the RV parking site, which was a cool experience! First, the convenience to go back and forth from the music scene to the camping area was, indeed, convenient. Second, for me, I was able to see a lot of familiar facesâ€”yeah, you, Fortunate Youth and OB reggae scene! However, although camping privileges were able to accommodate the festival this year, maybe it could have benefited from checking the noise level (which is hard to do when alcohol and music are involved) and suggested strategies towards cleanliness, including the proper disposal of certain young adult items! Nevertheless, in comparison to other camping sites, which do not necessarily enforce a curfew and other limits, like those that pertain to alcohol and cigarettes, the camping environment was quieter than most! I can suggest one reason for why this was possible, though, I am sure some of the campers would disagree as it relates to Californiaâ€™s Proposition 215.
Going back to the music scene, I caught Micah Brownâ€™s set at the main stage at 3:30 pm. It was amazing! Micah Brown is a very talented artist. The way he plays his acoustic guitar is mesmerizing. In his set he had a violinist back him up, so they made beautiful music together! Micah Brown has more of an acoustic reggae vibe similar to Dave Matthews, but his voice really adds power to his strong lyrics. Brown got a great response at the festival!
Next up was Clear Conscience and Thrive at 4:20, Passafire at 5:30, Anuhea at 6:15, and from then on, Mishka, J Boog and SOJA. I caught Clear Conscience, a band from Oakland, CA because I am familiar with their music. The band sounded pretty solid; although, they might need to tighten up a couple of their songs. I missed Thrive, whose music I enjoy, but they were due to play again the next day! Passafire was great. They not only had an amazing crowd, but there were a lot of people singing along to their psychedelic rock/reggae music! I wasnâ€™t able to catch Anuhea or Mishkaâ€™s set (camp break), but I did catch some of J Boogâ€™s. Everyone was at the main stage by then, so the area was really crowded. Plus, J Boog has a lot of supporters! The crowd for him was loud and proud, and I recall wondering if he got them when he left the stage without singing, â€œNice To Know Yaâ€, as he got me!
SOJA had the most phenomenal performance of the weekend! Perhaps Iâ€™m basing this off of how much I danced to them and by the response from the crowd, but I also recall acknowledging how in-tuned and connected these guys were in playing their instruments together! Some of their songs had extended instrumentals, and the way they kept up with one another was amazingâ€”fast, slow it down, pick it up, end it longâ€¦and hard! These guys continue to put on an amazing show and I understand why they are the most popular reggae band in the country! Kudos, Soldiers of Jah Army!
The first day of the California Roots Festival concluded around 10:30pm. There was the option to see The Green across the street from the fairgrounds at a nightclub called Planet Gemini, but tickets were sold-out prior to the festival! Other than that, options included heading back to oneâ€™s campsite, motel room, or houseâ€”and yes, plenty of crowds stayed up!
Morning greeted my eyes with more clouds as I escaped the tent I slept in. It was a new day and the late night wasnâ€™t too bad considering my morning would be easyâ€”nowhere to drive, nowhere to be. Only hunger, showering and getting dressed were priorities. At noon, I found myself wanting to check out Fiction 20 Down. The sun managed to come out and the day appeared promising with more fun and music!
Fiction 20 Down is a reggae-rock band from Maryland. Although I was late with checking them out at the second stage, I remember they had a pretty good crowd and a good sound. I had checked them out online a couple years back and wasnâ€™t as impressed with them as I am now! There is something popular about their sound.
Sono Vero was next on the same stage. Being familiar with the band from Shoreline Jam, and admiring how saxophone player Eric Hirschhorn plays with them and other prominent Caliâ€™ bands, I acknowledged their large support and large sound. They are quite young, but appear to have a strong following. I didnâ€™t stay long, though, as friends and I wanted to check out a fellow band from San Diego called JAM Kwest. They were playing at the Turf Club stage, so we joined other San Diegans, including members from STRANGER, Irie Nation, and the OB reggae scene in supporting them. Pumped with horns, sweet reggae sound, and deep lyrics, JAM Kwest moved the pretty full Turf Club. There was plenty of dancing going on by the stageâ€¦and yeah, it was all fun!
To make my day brighter, Fortunate Youth, one of my favorite California bands played next at the second stage. My friends and I caught their set early and that was great because I got to hear their entire set. The band started with a new song. Then, they performed â€œSkankinâ€, â€œLove is the Most Highâ€, â€œBurn Oneâ€ (a fav), and â€œSweet Loveâ€. I can never really stop dancing to these very cool and down-to-earth guys playing sweet, roots rock-reggae music with true California style. They are awesome!
I managed to check out Bare Feet, a band from San Luis Obispo, California. I only heard a couple of their songs as I was heading back to camp. Their crowd was small, but their music was pretty good. They were quite young, but had a lot of spirit!
I got back to the festival in time to catch another favorite California band of mineâ€”Thrive. This band from Santa Cruz has great messages in their lyrics and plays instrumentals with heart! I know because I had the perfect spot to hear them. I was on stage with my buddy from Bryan Harding Illustrations. A Special Thanks to Bryan Harding because he graciously took me to the fest and granted me all-access. Blessed was I; there is nothing like being able to meet and vibe with the bands backstage. Thriveâ€™s song â€œFreedom of Speechâ€ and â€œSo Beautifulâ€ were fantastic!
Iration happened next at the main stage! Their music is very enjoyable, sweet, and sincere. Hailing from Hawaii, but residing in beautiful Santa Barbara, Iration is popular for their songs â€œTurn Aroundâ€, â€œCookie Jarâ€, â€œTime Bombâ€, and â€œGet Back To Meâ€. They even managed to cover â€œSay It Ainâ€™t Soâ€ by Weezer. Iration is always a crowd-pleaser!
After Iration, it was back to the second stage for another band from Hawaii called The Green. By this time, it was five oâ€™clock. Perhaps because the second stage was small and set up around bushes, I wasnâ€™t too agreeable with the sound. Nevertheless, The Green pleased the crowd with their easy-going, island sound, especially with new jams.
To end this successful weekend of music and art, two well-loved rock bands closed the show. These bands were The Expendables and Pepper. I believe most of the people who caused Sundayâ€™s show to sell-out were there for The Expendables. Well-loved for their metal, the band from Santa Cruz, CA pleased the crowd with such songs as â€œGanja Smugglingâ€, â€œDown, Down, Downâ€, and â€œPositive Mindâ€. To end their set, they performed â€œBowl For Twoâ€, which, of course, made the crowd roar. And, what better way to end this festival (particularly for The Expendables fans) than with Pepper. Known for years for their rock â€˜nâ€™ roll style, these boys always ignite the crowd with fire and charm. They, of course, performed well-loved songs, including â€œNo Controlâ€, â€œStormtrooperâ€, â€œDirty Hot Sexâ€ and â€œPoint and Shootâ€. Other songs included â€œBack Homeâ€, â€œToo Muchâ€ and â€œMirrorâ€. Pepper ended the night with the well-loved â€œAshesâ€ to end the incredible, music-filled weekend! Thank YOU, Caliâ€™ Roots!
Photos By: Kristy Rose