California Roots Day 1

Review: John Baker
Photos & Video: Guerin Williams

California Roots Festival 2012 

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"Day 1"

I had no idea what to expect when we showed up at the 3rd Annual Cali-Roots Festival in Monterey, CA at 9am, but I was quickly answered by Jacob Hemphill of SOJA, without any prompting, casually walking up to our crew and saying, “Hey, what’s up?” From that point on I knew that this festival was going to be different than anything I had experienced before.

            In only it’s 3rd year, the Cali-Roots festival brought together some of the top acts from the California reggae scene and beyond for a weekend of positive vibes and irie times. While normally the rain in the morning might get people down, everyone remained upbeat and the place was buzzing the energy of anticipation of a good day. Bands, sound techs, and event staff were all working hard together, the camaraderie was apparent from the start. Luckily, the rain let up just as the first acts were starting up, an omen for the rest of the day!{gallery}cali_roots_day1:267:350::{/gallery}

            Hi Roots, a mix of upbeat reggae and hip hop, kicked off the festival on the Main stage. Camping had been sold out the previous night, so the crowd was strong and eager to get the roots music bumping in their ears. Next up was a personal favorite of mine, The Simpkin Project, just straight up, good natured and perfectly executed pure reggae music. While many of the bands at the festival threw in influences of rock, hip hop and other genres, The Simpkin Project kept things old school and rootsy, reminding everyone of the sound from Jamaica that started it all.

            The festival did a great job of switching things up from the Main to the 2nd stage, making sure artists didn’t over lap. This gave bands the maximum amount of crowd for each performance. A third stage was also set up near an indoor bar for newer acts. Myself and the crowd had a good time walking through the vendors and food stands after each performance. The next artist on the main stage, Matt Masih, is a pretty chill and unassuming guy off stage, but make no mistake when he and his band, the Messengers, take the stage, they light things up with their unique blend of funky reggae. Both myself and the other MusicBailout staff were very impressed by this new artist. They even capped things off with a guest appearance by Aaron, lead singer of Thrive.

            I spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with performers and strolling back and forth between the two stages seeing artists like Naia Kete with her solid roots 3-piece band and Michah Brown and his band who brought a super smooth sound to the festival. The vibe between the artists was like seeing old friends get together at a Memorial Day BBQ, people were laughing, joking and reuniting after long stretches on the road.

            One of the best demonstrations of unity between not just artists but between fans was the performance from the band ThriveNot only did the Santa Cruz reggae rockers bring incredible energy onto the main stage, they got the crowd singing along to practically every word. One of the highlights was their performance of their latest single “Miss Number One”, certainly the lyrics are for the ladies but anyone can get down to the groove. The band brings an overall positive vibe with a message of unity, which is embodied beyond just their music in their charity organization, Unify to Thrive, which funds research in the battle against cancer. Started by the groups saxophone player, Scott Schipper, the non-profit is largely funded by the band giving a generous percentage of their merchandise sales to the organization.   You can check out the work that they do here:

            The day continued with performances from Anuhea and Mishka, who share the same backing band, on the second stage. The two have been on the road together bringing their Hawaiian roots vibe to the mainland. Georgia based reggae rockers Passafire changed things up with their much heavier blend of hard rock and reggae on the main stage. The group has a unique sound compared to a lot of the acts at the rest of the festival, much more heavy rock sounding, possibly a result of the heavy metal influence coming out of the South East right now.

            The two headliners on the main stage, J-Boog and SOJA gave the crowds a high-energy finish to the first day. J-Boog took the stage with Hot Rain and got the crowd grooving to their blend of hip-hop and Hawaiian style reggae. The band was tight and J-Boog was in good form despite the two entities flying from opposite ends of the world, Dubai and Hawaii, to converge at the Cali-Roots festival. SOJA brought the house down at the end of the day, busting out all the stops with not only a full horn section but also an additional lead guitarist to double some of Hemphill’s lines. The Cali-Roots crowd certainly showed the VA based band the California love, demanding an encore before the band could even leave the stage.

            For most of the festival goers, that signaled the end of the day, however those still in search of a party, or just some more live music could check out several after parties going on in and around the festival. We checked out Hot Rain, who packed their party and got people groovin’ hard, but the hottest party was across the street with The Green. Definitely the most artists showed up to this party, something that would continue for The Green throughout the festival. We had a great time unwinding with a lot of the performers and capping off a great day. We ended the first day exhausted, but excited for the second! Check back soon for a recap of the second day, artist interviews with J-Boog, Anuhea, The Green, and more! 

Review: John Baker
Photos & Video: Guerin Williams

California Roots Festival Links