If you ever wanted to get a quick taste of California in a matter of three days, Long Beach during Cali Vibes weekend is the place to do that. This year’s festival at Long Beach’s Marina Green Park was three days of beautiful February weather filled with a variety of fantastic music.
Taking over a stretch of Shoreline Drive and the Swan Lakes, the festival has three stages: The Vibes, The Greens, and Boomyard. All three stages featured musicians well-versed in dancehall and roots reggae and they kept the party going all weekend.
Two tribute sets were scheduled for the weekend along with multiple meet and greets and small pop-up sets, giving fans a chance to get up close and personal with their favorite artists. Cali Vibes not only brings the good music, but always provides a plethora of eating options with their many food trucks, drink stands, and dessert carts.
No matter what was on the fans’ agenda for the weekend, it seemed like Cali Vibes had a little something for everyone.
As gates opened for day one, Tunnel Vision from San Clemente got things started with their surf, rock-reggae vibes on The Greens stage, while hip-hop, funk fusion band Little Stranger got the crowd movin’ their feet at The Vibes stage.
Later in the day, back on The Greens, Through the Roots and Grammy winner Kabaka Pyramid graced the audiences with their bold words and masterful musicians. All the while, Arise Roots and Steel Pulse got down on the horns and some funky beats, truly letting the crowd “feel” the energy behind the music. Not far behind on the energy and vibes, on the Boomyard stage all day – no matter what time was – the selectors always had the fans in sync with the beat. Another crowd standout was Common Kings!
Ozomatli, Chali 2na, and Cut Chemist provided the ultimate mix of genres, such as salsa, reggae, funk, hip-hop, and jazz, along with a strong horn section. That was followed by Iya Terra and their heavy combination of alternative reggae that had the crowd in a frenzy one after the other.
As the sun set on day one, the fans sang along with 311. Nick Hexum brought the wood for this one. Fans flipped out to “Beautiful Disaster,” “All Mixed Up,” “Come Original,” “Amber,” and “Sunset in July.” 311 was beyond electric and the crowd really went off to their Cure cover of “Lovesong.” 311 set the tone for the next three days of mayhem closing strong with “Down.”
311 Live | Photo by Quinn Tucker- Quasarmedia
The big crowd pleaser of the evening was Sister Nancy who blew everybody away with her smooth moves and dynamic voice. And of course, who could forget Stick Figure and their always entertaining stage presence, followed by the fireworks show in the heart of downtown Long Beach and Rebelution to close out night one.
Day two kicked off with two of LAW Records’ very own: Cydeways, a rad alt-reggae pop punk band out of Santa Barbara; and Joe Samba out of Massachusetts who blends acoustic vibes with reggae that practically takes you a better place.
As the sun hung high, Kyle Smith and his army of fans got rowdy in the best of ways, showing everyone who exactly Kyle Smith is. Trailing behind them were natives Long Beach Dub All Stars, who always have the crowd singing back.
Over at The Vibes, DEMN gathered a large crowd for his epic performance while fans of his started to gather for the tribute set that would happen soon after in memory of Katastro’s lead singer, Andy J. Chaves.
After putting on a peak performance last year at Cali Vibes, on top of some of their biggest shows including Red Rocks, Chaves lost his life in a car accident. His devastated fans have since shown their support and love along with other bands in the community who worked with him closely and developed strong friendships with him. In doing so, Cali Vibes put on a beautiful tribute set with songs done by Katastro, Dirty Heads, Rome and Duddy, Common Kings, Iration, and Artikal Sound System where everyone sang along in honor of him.
After that emotional tribute, international artist Matisyahu brought a special kind of energy to the day. It’s one thing to see a video of Matisyahu belting out “King Without a Crown” and “One Day.” It’s another thing altogether to witness the majesty of his performance in front of thousands. One word can best describe that moment in time: Surreal.
Fortunate Youth on the other hand gathered all their “Friends and Family” onstage – and in the crowd – for a great time. With the sun going down, the fans started to become more excited as some of the headliners’ sets drew near. Bringing the island sounds, we had Common Kings and J Boog transporting us to paradise.
Day two was very heavy on hip-hop and Method Man and Redman were the first to get the ball rolling for the evening; you could say they got everyone “jumping!”
With everyone hyped up from their set, Damien Marley escalated the vibes higher with his powerful music and elevated lyrics.
As expected, Marley played original material, and the well-orchestrated covers of his legendary father, Bob.
Fans went off when he went into “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Is This Love,” and they basically lost their minds to “Welcome to Jamrock.” Then Marley blew the roof off the joint, figuratively speaking of course, with “Could You Be Loved.”
Not long after that, Cypress Hill had the whole crowd smoked out, complete with a giant Dr. Greenthumb onstage, reminding us all what his name is and just where he’s from.
Unfortunately there was a drop in the lineup, but lucky for us this community is all about playing together, so Cali Vibes allowed Little Stranger and Artikal Sound System to join forces and fill in as Strange A.S.S. which honestly was a big surprise, but highly enjoyable.
Orange County locals, Dirty Heads, filled up The Vibes stage with fans old and new who have trekked from all corners to see them.
They opened with “Medusa,” and raised the sonic elevation with “Burn Slow,” “Stand Tall,” “My Sweet Summer,” “Lay Me Down,” “Cabin by the Sea,” and the closer, “Rage.”
The band was on fire, from drums to bass to guitar and vocals; Dirty Heads were firing on all cylinders.
They came back out to kill it with “Oxygen,” and everyone’s favorite… “Vacation,” then calling it a night to screaming fans with “Heavy Water.”
The big hit of the evening though was seeing Snoop Dogg himself in Long Beach; he even brought out Suga Free for a few songs and made it rain Snoop Dollars on the crowd!
What really stood out was his homage to Eazy-E, Dre and NWA at the beginning of his performance. It was a beyond epic moment for all to see and hear.
Always one for the dramatic, for ultimate impact, Snoop took the stage with other vocalists, pole dancers, and a dancing monkey! Due to the time limitations, Snoop couldn’t play his normal set, and time just flew by as the master gave a performance in showmanship.
Before he exited the stage, he gave fans their money’s worth with three decades of his hit parade with songs like, “Boyz n’ the Hood,” “Drop it Like it’s Hot,” “Murder Was the Case,” “Young, Wild & Free,” and of course… “Doggystyle.”
Needless to say it was an OG’s paradise thanks to Snoop! AND boom! Before you knew it, day two was in the books!
Before gates were even open for day three, I could hear the Boomyard stage already going off; I commend them for paying tribute to the roots all weekend as hard as they did. Early afternoon was graced with a soulful symphony from Paula Fuga followed by a tribute set to late great Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Photo by Steve Thrasher
Some East Coast reggae-rock was brought to The Vibes stage by the Elovators while a very powerful acoustic set was delivered by Mike Love on The Greens stage.
HIRIE turned their timeslot into a funky reggae dance party complete with some tasty horn break downs, making everyone – even security – drop it low from time to time. Back at The Vibes, Stephen Marley paid a very powerful tribute to his father, Bob Marley, and his son, Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley, who sadly passed away recently at the age of 31. Photos of his son were displayed behind him while he sang his song “‘It’s Alright” and it had him and the crowd in tears at some points.
While the crowd hugged and remembered they were brought together by music, Pepper celebrated 20 years of togetherness with everyone by playing “Kona Town” in its entirety.
The crowd went nuts to “Give It Up,” and their duet with Stick Figure, “Warning.”
Australian multi-musician Tash Sultana took everyone on a transcendent trip with their skills and luminous voice, and Warren G had all the OGs get down singing all of his hits right back at him. Always causing the crowd to flock is Slightly Stoopid with guest Chali 2na and their always fabulous horn section.
Finishing off the whole festival was the special guest from Hawaii, Jack Johnson, who had everyone excited and jammin’ to the beat, with original tunes like “Bubble Toes,” “Banana Pancakes,” “Good People,” and some covers.
Highlight of the night was a cover of Sublime’s “Badfish,” The Wailers’ “High Tide or Low Tide,” with a strong closing “Angel / Better Together.” Johnson brought all three days together, leaving festival goers content and ready for the next Cali Vibes.
FESTIVAL PHOTO GALLERY
by The Corona Chronicles & Green-Eyed Blonde Photography