Cali Roots Breaking GroundWelcome to Jamrock, CA.
What do California Roots Music and Arts Festival and the Monterey Pop Festival have in common? Flaming guitars, mass crowds of music-made families, and some of the most legendary artists to grace Monterey County Fair and Event Center’s original stage: THE BOWL.
This was the first time The Bowl, just one of three fairground venues, was opened in the five years of Cali Roots’ short, but record-breaking history. SOJA, Rebelution, Pepper, The Green, Ziggy & Damian Marley, and 311 were just a few of the bands who headlined this years fest, vibin’ out on the same stage as Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and The Mamas and the Papas at the Monterey Pop Festival almost fifty years ago.
The one-love vibe seemed to exude through the history leftover from the 1967 Pop Festival, but instead of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out, concert-goers were all about one-love, one-planet, and freedom for all nations. This Rastafarian culture, a rarity in socially accepted religious paths, created an ambiance accepting of any person, including the occasional Coachella-transplant and nine-month-old baby. We found ourselves wishing we could escape to this world every weekend.
A slight haze had settled in by Friday night, and it was not just from the ganja-smoking patrons. With Monterey’s famous Summer fog settling in during the first day, Friday’s headliner SOJA, brought the heat up, killing a performance with guest J Boog. SOJA’s lax melodies matched with J Boogs funky beats, created an atmosphere so chill it was like Jah himself was rocking us to sleep. That is, until SOJA guitarist Trevor Miller recreated Jimi Hendrix’s legendary guitar fire, lighting-up the stage in more ways than one. Cheers and applause roared as flames filled the stage and patrons spilled over the venue. But not one person was a stranger to the other.
After Saturday’s performances by Iration and Zion I, the Bowl was rocked again by Ziggy Marley, the eldest son of reggae-king Bob Marley and Rita Marley. All hailed Ziggy, as he killed it with a mix of his own “galactic” tracks and renditions of his father’s timeless Rasta-rooted classics. Rebelution finished off the night with a reggae sing-a-long, playing some of their universally known and loved tracks, including “Feelin’ Alright” and “Safe and Sound”.
Sunday’s performance included a serious appearance by the sun gods, and New Kingston kept listeners Rasta-rooted with help from special guests Tribal Seeds and J Boog, creating a cool mix of old and new school rap/reggae sounds. After a quick trip to Kona Town with the crazy boys of Pepper, and a real throwback to the 90’s with 311’s crowd-favorite “Amber”, Damian Marley (and his floor-length dreads) crooned his way to Cali Roots history, personally inviting each follower, lighters up, to join him in Jamrock.
With over 20,000 people in attendance at Cali Roots this year, we have to ask what’s with this newfound glory that is Monterey’s music scene? Five short years ago there was no Cali Roots, and many of the Generation Y music-fiends flocked to Santa Cruz and larger, commercial venues in Santa Clara Valley. Now that Monterey has had a pretty clean track record hosting festivals like Cali Roots, finishing up their fifth year, and First City, which is going into its second year, it makes sense that the environment of our town meshes too well with the emerging big-budget music scene we have been seeing.
Take a historical venue, with a picturesque backdrop, and add in some of the top artists of the reggae and indie genres, and Monterey could have the formula to become an entertainment capital. And we are feelin’ alright about that.