Who would’ve thought that a Thursday in May would be the start of an epic weekend? After being postponed twice due to COVID, California Roots Music and Arts Festival decided to add a day to the highly-anticipated weekend and it was a monumental and fun decision!
Despite it being during the workweek, it didn’t stop showgoers from trekking and traveling from near and far to enjoy the awesomeness that is Cali Roots. Fans lined up in front of the gates every morning well before they opened to meet up with friends they hadn’t seen since the last time around. As doors opened and security moved everyone along, it was nothing but smiles and excitement for the day ahead.
Crowds roamed the grounds as Eli-Mac, Tunnel Vision, Kash’d Out, DENM, and Fortunate Youth along with The Ruddians and THRIVE! sprinkled in at the Cali Roots Pop-Up stage, where fans can catch acoustic sets and it provided a wonderful score to a sunny Monterey afternoon.
As the sun set, The Esselen Tribe of Monterey County provided a blessing to all those coming, all those involved, and the beautiful land the festival would be using as it has culture significance to the elders and locals in the area. Stephen Marley and Dirty Heads closed out the first night, setting the tone for the next few days to come.
Friday brought in a few more people who traveled by plane and car through the night. Everyone was eager for a new day with fresh new music to begin. Smells from the diverse selection of food vendors filled the walkways while arts, crafts, and merch sellers displayed their best goods. The Pop-Up stage is located at the center of the grounds and it featured acoustic sets from Kyle Smith and Cydeways, both of whom brought big crowds front and center.
Tucked into the beautiful trees is the Cali Roots Stage, which is a more intimate set up for music, and with Friday’s lineup, it was appreciated. Satsang, Earthkry, Sa-Roc, and Brother-Ali hyped the crowd as their roots and words really sank in. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Chronixx couldn’t make it, but Collie Budz saved the day inviting other musicians to entertain the crowd and keep the party going. Pepper took the stage next and followed suit by having friends and other artists jam side-by-side with them.
The Bowl, which was the setting for the historic Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, was on its way to host some pretty explosive bands that day as well. Natural Vibrations initiated the start of the weekend with Nattali Rize coming in hot right after with an empowering message. The Expendables got the crowd rowdy as they played all of their best, and even brought out a hypeman to keep the energy up.
Gracing the crowd from the East Coast was musician Atmosphere along with reggae/rock band The Movement. Fans packed the Bowl as to not miss these acts that traveled all this way, all the while claiming their spots for the evening’s headliner, Rebelution. Of course, they put on an amazing performance like they always do, complete with horns and a light show to remember.
Saturday brought the big crowds as fans were finally off from the work week and ready to have a good time. San Diego band Sensi Trails got the early birds dancing and grooving at one end of the grounds, while FIA got them going in the Bowl. The sun hung high in the sky as the Bowl proceeded with music from the Elevators and Bumpin Uglies, followed by another performance from Collie Buddz featuring pizzas for the whole crowd. At the Cali Roots Stage, things were getting heavy as Iya Terra followed Dub Inc. and Arise Roots’ sets.
With the moon peeking over the skyline, fans started feeling the vibe of the music just in time for The Green to serenade the crowd with tunes from the Big Island. They were followed by Stick Figure and their messages of positivity and love. The finale of Saturday’s festivities was Tribal Seeds at the Cali Roots Stage, and Slightly Stoopid in the Bowl, complete with a full horn section.
As Sunday came along, showgoers could be seen getting in last hugs and selfies from friends who would be going back home the next day. Vana Liya and Artikal Sound System loaded the morning with rad female-led bands, while Through the Roots, Durand Jones & the Indications, and Mike Love brought crowds together with their unique styles. Making sure the roots sound was accounted for, Common Kings and Jesse Royal finished the afternoon off, reminding the crowd why we all came.
Debuting at Cali Roots was Sublime with Rome in all their glory, paying tribute to the late great Bradley Nowell and those who helped influence the music we cherish so much. Following up that act was Cali Roots veteran Hirie, showing us all her dance moves and just how awesome her band truly is.
Cotton candy clouds saturated the skies as Ice Cube reminded us how good of a day it was, while Sean Paul got the party going one final time before Damien Marley brought us all back to our roots. Singing original songs of his own and songs of his father, in a time of uncertainty, the unity those words gave provided a real sense of hope.
Every Memorial Day weekend since 2010, California Roots Music and Arts Festival has brought people from all over together through a sense of community and music. You could truly see how much showgoers missed the warm smiles from friends, and sense of wholeness the music provided. It really is a sight to see for yourself.