For the 12th year in a row, Monterey County welcomed California Roots Music and Arts Festival to its world-famous fairgrounds, drawing crowds from near and far for the Memorial Day festivities.
Fans of reggae, hip-hop, ska, and music lovers in general, wait in anticipation as they voyage to share a weekend with some of their favorite musicians and friends. While some fans were able to partake last year, others have been unable to due to COVID.
As health precautions made it difficult to put on the festival during that time, organizers wanted to make it up to their loyal fans and added an additional day to the three-day festival. Now that concerts and festivals have resumed normal routines, 2023 will be the final year they do the four days. Make no mistake though; the fans have come out in full force the last two years, showing the Caliroots team how much this festival means to them.
Each morning fans lined up at the gates before they opened, ready to start the day. Thursday being the additional day didn’t stop people from taking the time off of work to partake in the first day of Caliroots. As festival attendees made their way through the doors, they filled the spaces at The Bowl to get a good spot for festival opener Mihali (who also happens to be part of Twiddle), and at the Cali Roots Stage for Mykal Rose and the Subatomic Sound System.
Bringing some roots to the afternoon we had Dub Inc. and Katchafire getting the crowds to shake off their work blues and get into the festival spirit. Paying tribute to the very first Caliroots is the OG Stage where Thrive! and Anuhea got the vibes going. Bringing some hip-hop to day one was Atmosphere with all the heavy hitters and rhymes, then Michael Franti and Spearhead bringing uplifting positive joyous jams for all ages to get down to.
The evening called for fans to fill up The Bowl for the final acts of the night. A very cool addition to Caliroots this year was the ASL interpreters that they had on stage for the night. Seeing the different interpreters sign to various SOJA and Rebelution songs while the crowd went wild under the lights was definitely something exciting to see.
Just like the day before, the Friday crowd was up early and ready to go. Day two started with the UK’s very own The Skints bringing a rad ska sound to the festival lineup, and Surfer Girl following up with some good summertime jams. Joe Samba hyped up the crowd in the afternoon with his interesting style of alternative reggae while The Interrupters literally had a circle pit going in The Bowl.
Down at the OG Stage you had Soulwise bringing the heat and the funky reggae beats while Chali 2na got down with some word flipping and lyric spitting. Following up with the two was some ska punk vibes from Kyle Smith as his fans brought the party to the OG Stage.
With the day turning into night, LAB from New Zealand, Steel Pulse from the UK, and Common Kings – whose members range from different regions of the Pacific Islands – closed out the night at the Cali Roots Stage with different sounds of international reggae. Crowds made their way to The Bowl as the final acts of the evening were taking the stage.
LA Legends, Cypress Hill took it back a few years and got a little loco with the fans as they amped up the night. Yeah, the crowd got what they came for – some “Insane in the Brain,” “Hits from the Bong,” “Dr. Greenthumb,” and a very cool House of Pain cover of “Jump Around.”
Trailing behind was Sublime with Rome’s taking the crowd down on a trip through memory lane, singing songs made famous by the late Bradley Nowell with a few originals mixed in.
The reflection hit parade included “April 29, 1992,” “Smoke Two Joint,” “Wrong Way,” “Pamic,” “Doin’ Time,” “Badfish,” “What I Got,” and “Santeria,”
Another standout moment was when the Los Angeles Fourth Wave Ska icons The Interrupters took the stage. Taking the crowd through a sonic journey of ska eras, Aimee Interrupter killed it with her dynamic vocals aside the band’s signature sound. Fans got an instance shot of an abbreviated set of solid hit after hit; “Take Back the Power,” “By My Side,” “Gave You Everything,” and “She’s Kerosene” kept the crowd skankin’ the night away.
The evening really got exciting when New York rap icons Wu Tang took the stage, paying respect to O.D.B. and performing some of their best songs that many knew word for word.
Ready to go for Saturday, fans ran to the stages to catch their favorite openers of the day. On the Cali Roots Stage, you had Cydeways bringing a unique mix of sounds with velvet voiced Jesse Royal following along who got the crowd moving and swaying. Showing more love for Sublime, all the way from Rhode Island, was tribute band Badfish, who woke people up with an early morning funky reggae party.
Back in The Bowl, while some fans started saving their spaces for the evening headliners, others were enjoying the talents of the openers. Kes and Ozomalti brought some Spanish-style reggae into the mix with a heavy horn and rhythm section. Collie Buddz went on right after and not only killed it onstage, but ordered 1,000 pizzas for everyone for the third year running.
The OG Stage on Saturday was a fun mix of alternative hip-hop with Shwayze and Little Stranger turning what supposed to be the small stage at Caliroots into a large house party. At the Cali Roots Stage for the latter half of the day, all the way from Italy was Alberosie, showing his true passion for roots reggae music while Hieroglyphs and Del the Funky Homosapien conveyed their lyrical skills and showed us how to chill.
Caliroots veterans Hirie serenaded the crowd as the moon hung in the sky, ending their set with Patrica Jetton’s famous dancing and a mini pyro show.
The Bowl was reminded that while Shaggy is Mister Bombastic, whatever happened, it wasn’t him, and Stick Figure capped Saturday evening off with a packed house and a wicked laser light show. A performance fans were talking about for the rest of the weekend.
Long Beach Dub All Stars got the ball rolling on Sunday as fans made their way in for the final day of Caliroots. Salinas locals The Rudians took stage in The Bowl and blew people away with their horns and sound that you can’t help but dance to. Thee Sacred Souls brought some rhythm and blues to the festival, almost making time stop with their slow, smooth vocals and perfectly-timed beats. Orange County local DEMN brought his laid-back surf-rock vibes to the crowd, while Matisyahu got people on their feet with his songs of sentiment and unity.
Traveling all the way from Massachusetts, The Elovators made sure to bring the heat and had a packed crowd for their set. Alternative reggae band The Movement had a large crowd, which was a good thing because they put their manager into an inflatable ball and crowdsurfed him while they closed out the final evening at the Cali Roots Stage.
After having not played since 2018, Iration made a comeback and really made the evening special, starting off our summer nights. Lead singer Micah Pueschel was virtually illuminating on stage.
Then it was time for the main event of the evening – Dirty Heads. Closing out the whole festival, Dirty Heads played old favorites and songs off their new album, “Midnight Control,” and they had every hand in the air and every person singing their words right back at them.
Their set had a little bit of everything for everyone. Fan favorites, “Burn Slow,” “My Sweet Summer,” “Lay Me Down,” “Stand Tall,” “Cabin by the Sea,” Rage,” “Medusa,” and “Heavy Water” were just a few of the songs delivered for this epic performance.
California Roots festival does a fabulous job at curating an eclectic mix of music (sub-genres) for its fans, providing a musical party every Memorial Day Weekend in Monterey, California. Needless to say, 2023 was majestic in scope and regal in delivery and it will be an event we talk about for some time.
Proactive in making this the best festival ever, Caliroots is already planning for next year and has set the dates for May 24th – 26th. As soon as they drop the lineup, we will let you know!