As soon as you enter the Monterey Fairgrounds you can tell this festival is different. The venue itself is a part of music festival history and is legendary for the Bowl, which is the stage where Hendrix burned his guitar at the Monterey Pop festival in 1967. This year Cali Roots expanded to using that stage as the main stage, which allowed for a huge increase in attendance. Besides being held in a legendary spot the genres of music that grace the stages are unlike any other festival. California has a very diverse music scene and Cali Roots provides fans with a feel for that. It’s not just reggae; there are bands that have roots in surf rock, ska, punk and everything in between.
With the exponential growth over the festivals 5-year span, there were plenty of great changes this year. The camping this year was moved off-site to the nearby Laguna Seca Raceway. It is also the first time shuttle service was offered to and from the venue between the offsite parking and camping areas. The festival also has a large focus on becoming zero waste and fans were encouraged to pick up trash and use the many recycling bins throughout the venue. In efforts to decrease waste, there were also Klean Kanteen reusable beer cups and water bottles available.
The lineup this year included British reggae legends Steel Pulse and not one but two of the Marley brothers; Ziggy and Damien. Reggae-rock bands including Pepper, Rebelution, 311, and SOJA also drew massive crowds and smoke clouds to the main stage. Fortunately the set times between all three stages allowed for plenty of time between sets to check out all of the vendors, which included a great selection of art, food, and merchandise. Live art done on stage has been a huge part of Cali Roots and this year there was an increase in how many artists created works on each stage. After each piece was finished the artists showed them at their booth for the weekend.
One of the best sets was the Skunk Records Anniversary show simply because it was unique. The Skunk record label of Sublime fame has played a key part in the California music scene that Cali Roots represents. The reunion featured co-founder Miguel Happoldt and his band Perro Bravo featuring former members of Long Beach Dub All-Stars. Bradley Nowell’s son Jake also took the stage for a cover of Caress Me Down and for the last few songs they even brought out H.R. of Bad Brains. This was a rare chance to see some of the biggest influencers in this scene share a stage.
The fan favorite was Nahko and Medicine for the People. Their set had a jam band like the style of music different from any of the other bands playing, and it shows where the festival may be headed in the future. They didn’t play the main stage but the crowd begged them to come back out for an encore. Some other upcoming artists that played great sets and are worth checking out include Hirie, Clear Conscience, and Alborosie. It will be interesting to see where the biggest roots and reggae festival in the country is headed in the future as the genre continues to gain a larger following in California and the rest of the country.
Later this year the California Roots festival will head back to North Carolina for the second year. Last year the California Roots brand expanded to the east coast featuring a one-day event called the Carolina Sessions. The event will now be two days, September 13 and 14th, 2014. It will feature similar bands and is sure to bring the same great vibes.
A huge shout out and thanks goes to Jeff Mosner and Dan Sheehan for founding the California Roots festival and creating a movement that is original and continues to bring people together through art and music year after year
By Chris Rozzo, FestPop Staff Writer