The California Roots Music & Arts Festival returns to Monterey over Memorial Day weekend, and they are doing it up BIG! After expanding to four days in 2022, organizers have filled the festival with incredible food, drink, vendors, and of course, music.
The lineup for 2023 includes some heavy hitters in the reggae, ska, hip hop, and roots world: Wu-Tang Clan, Sublime with Rome, Cypress Hill, Steel Pulse, Stick Figure, Dirty Heads, Iration, Common Kings, The Interrupters, Rebelution, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Shaggy, Atmosphere, SOJA, Katchafire, Collie Buddz & Friends, Hirie, Gentleman, Kolohe Kai, Matisyahu, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Hieroglyphics ft. Del the Funky Homosapien, Denm, and plenty more.
OC Music News chatted with Dan Sheehan, one of the owners of Good Vibez Presents, about the upcoming festival. In addition to Cali Roots, Good Vibez is responsible for Bluegrass and Beyond, Holo Holo Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival, and Rebels & Renegades. Besides finding fantastic musicians to perform at these festivals, Good Vibez impressed me with how much they do to keep their events as green as possible, their efforts to use locally sourced vendors, and their desire to give fans an memorable experience.
Traci: Hey Dan! How’s Monterey today?
Dan: Monterey is good. It’s a little cold, but it’s like Monterey cold, so 50 degrees.
Traci: But you’re not under snow or severe rain or anything?
Dan: No. Not like Southern California!
Traci: I love that Good Vibez is you and your wife. You’re not some far away monopoly of suits. It’s you, and you’re music fans, and you’re local and care about your community.
Dan: That is correct. It’s us. Exactly. Through the pandemic, we had to let go of all of our staff, so it’s just pretty much me, Amy, and our marketing team, and our marketing manager. But now we’re up to 12-13 people on payroll and the office is bustling again, but still me and Amy at the helm.
Traci: I know you were a DJ and you’ve been involved in music most of your life. What was your first music festival?
Dan: I grew up in Hawaii, and there weren’t many music festivals in Hawaii during the early ‘90s. My first music festival was ‘96, I believe, Reggae on the River, which is up in Humboldt County. That was kind of the eye-opening experience. My first show was a band from England that was very big in Hawaii called Aswad. They were a big reggae band. Growing up in Hawaii and growing up around reggae music was definitely the driving force on why I started off as a reggae promoter.
Traci: I have been told Good Vibez goes above and beyond to make their events memorable for fans. What are the ways that you do that?
Dan: I think it’s making everything as flawless and smooth as possible. I think for people to come through the gates and be greeted by really nice people, and really nice security, and especially on site, that’s the introduction to the festival, right? If you have a bad experience at the box office – your name is not on the list or whatever it might be – and you’re having a bad experience and our staff is being rude to you, that’s a trickle effect. That doesn’t make you feel good about being there. So you come in, and it really is a good vibe – I mean, not to be cliché with it. But that’s setting up with the proper vendors; curate a food scene for people to enjoy food, as well as curating a good bar and having drinks that make sense for that particular demographic. It’s just making sure that we’re catering to the particular audience.
Traci: I know that’s got to be hard because everything in our world is priced so high right now and I am sure that affects you too.
Dan: We really try to make it affordable for everybody and where it’s not something that is out of reach for your average person. There’s been kind of a thought going around that festivals will only be for people that can afford it now, so it’s not for everybody. That’s something we definitely want to avoid because it does cost a lot of money. People are paying good money for these tickets. You want that festival experience to be top notch, because they paid to have a top-notch experience and see great bands and enjoy the food and the festivities and be around like minded people.
CYPRESS HILL Live | Photo by The Corona Chronicles
Traci: Plus you guys strive to have everything be as green as possible and I don’t mind paying more for something like that.
Dan: Right, exactly. For years at Cali Roots – I think it’s been eight years – we haven’t sold single use plastic water bottles at the bars or concessions up until last year. We decided to bring in a can option, so we do can water and water refill stations. We also have a steel pipe program where people come in, they buy a pint for $10, and then they get a dollar off their beer the whole weekend. But we eliminate so many single use beer cups like that and that’s been a big program.
Dan continued: We work with a couple of different companies to help us with our recycling, compost, and trash sorting, making sure that every single one of those is going where they need to go. Festivals have a big environmental impact with everybody that’s coming, they’re flying, driving, however they’re coming to the festival, plus all the vendors on site. We’ve been trying to do our part to make sure that we’re being a good steward of the land.
Traci: I think that’s amazing! I know you had to cancel due to the pandemic, but last year was the first one back, and then this year you’ve got Wu-Tang and Cypress Hill. That’s huge!
Dan: Yeah. We have Wu-Tang and Cypress Hill that Friday. I think a lot of people are really hyped on that Friday. We throw Sublime in there. We have Steel Pulse on that day as well. Wu-Tang for life! I’ve been trying to get them for a couple of years, and it all worked out this year and lined up and I’m excited about it!
Traci: You also have The Interrupters and Dirty Heads who are really big, having moments right now. It’s perfectly timed for your event!
Dan: Yes, exactly! It’s a goal to try to book more female artists or more female-fronted bands. Interrupters were definitely one that we wanted to do. We’ve been big fans of the music, but they have a strong female presence, and I’m always trying to find more female artists to book. But female or not, they’re really good.
Traci: Who are some of the bands that you’re excited to see this year? Or do you even get a chance to watch?
Dan: No, I get a chance to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the original Hieroglyphics with all the members in it. That’s going to be fun. Gentleman coming out of Germany. Gentleman’s great. He’s another one that I’ve been a big fan of for years. Having Stick Figure, who’s now one of the biggest artists in the space, having him headline on Saturday I think is really good too. I’m really looking forward to that. I have such a great team around me now that I’m able to see more of the bands. It’s nice, I’m able to kind of get out there to the crowd and see the music.
DIRTY HEADS Live | Photo by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography
Traci: If somebody has not been to Cali Roots, what would you say to them to get them to go?
Dan: I think it’s an experience that you have to experience. There’s obviously the music, but there’s also this vibe when you walk in. It’s like we gave the fans the canvas to create this. It’s a space where you can just be yourself, and you can be around a bunch of people that feel the same way. You’re there to celebrate the music and have a good time. And it’s intimate enough. It’s still 12,000 people a day, but it’s not like a Bonnaroo or Coachella or anything like that, where you have these giant stages. You’re close and the artists are actually in the crowd, mingling with fans, and it’s the whole thing. I think it’s definitely something that people should experience. It’s really cool to see what’s going on.
Traci: It really is “Good Vibez” only!
Dan: That’s right!
Thank you to Dan for chatting with us and we look forward to Cali Roots in Monterey on May 25th-28th, a perfect holiday weekend experience.
Get your tickets now and let’s start counting down the days!