By: Allie Adams, Bulldog Media
Saturday is the day where you sort of settle into the festival and start to feel comfortable navigating your way around the grounds. You (hopefully, though I’m not holding my breath) got a good night’s sleep cozied up in your sleeping bag and maybe you’re waking up with morning mimosas and camp-stove eggs and bacon (food just tastes better cooked outside. Period. Don’t @ me). You’re confident you know how to get the best spot at each stage and you definitely know where the pizza vendor and Sierra Nevada tent are. Chances are you’ve reconnected with old friends or made some new ones and found yourself a festy bestie. Or three.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but I say familiarity breeds comfort. Cali Roots is basically a family reunion with much better music and that’s why this festival is so special. More than simply a group of people listening to music; it’s a community of connected, accepting souls creating an experience together, year after year, feeding off each others smiles and forging friendships that go beyond the festival grounds.
Saturday morning was overcast and busy, and I spent most of my time hiding in the media room editing Friday’s vlog and bothering our camera guy, Kyle, for help. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t leave to see Xiuhtezcatl’s set on the Cali Roots stage until noon, completely missing Anuhea, The Hip Abduction and The Ries Brothers (a tragedy on all fronts). The sun kindly made an appearance and we relished the warmth after a chilly, rainy night. Oh yeah, it rained Friday night and it wasn’t just a sprinkle. I’m actually still surprised our tent didn’t get wet.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the 18 year old hip-hop artist, environmental activist and TED talker, Xiuhtezcatl, so I was naturally curious. He has his own brand of revolutionary rap that includes a violinist and percussionist, which emphasizes themes of cultural and environmental activism.
I tore through the crowd towards The Bowl to make it for the last fifteen minutes of The Expanders Sound System DJ set (real vinyl? Yes please) and it struck me how many families were here. I saw kids playing ball, toddlers being carted around in wagons, babies kicking happily on blankets in the grass. It made me miss my own kiddos that much more.
Fortunate Youth followed directly after and their set was so lit in so many ways. Ozzie from We Should Smoke sparked the biggest joint ever and while the entire bowl sang “Roll One Up” with Dan Kelly (watch the vlog below to see footage), the massive doobie was passed into the crowd and enthusiastically received by his waiting legion of fans.
I made a quick run to the media room for fresh batteries and raced back to The Bowl for Stephen Marley; I stayed for the entire set and grooved to songs like “Lively Up Yourself” and a cover of his dad’s “Easy Skankin’”. I feel a certain sense of respect for all Marley descendants, they are carrying on their father’s name in a powerful way and I just kinda feel like if I’m lucky enough to have the chance to see any one of them I should. Because, vibes… right?
I shot some really cool time lapses for the vlog as I walked across the fairgrounds to the Cali Roots stage for Ozomatli (watch below). Sunset means everything looks golden, as if the magic you’ve been feeling all day has finally materialized. After their high-energy set I ping ponged back and forth to catch veteran jam band kings Dispatch, Yaadcore’s DJ set and back to the Cali Roots stage for J Boog, who absolutely crushed. I probably had some of the most fun of the weekend at that show. Everyone was dancing: camera people, kids, their parents, security. The twinkling lights hanging from the trees made dusk extra dreamy and as darkness fell I disappeared into the crowd to get ready for Rebelution.
The Bowl was pulsing as the ominous intro to their new song “Celebrate” played and the five piece took the stage. Illuminated by the lightshow-of-all-lightshows, they cranked out favorite after favorite like “All I Got”, “Out of Control” and “Count Me In” (featuring an incredible horn opening care of trumpet player Zach Meyerowitz and saxophone player Eric Hirschhorn), plus tracks from their newly released album, Free Rein. I spent the entire set with my girlfriends way up in the bleachers, standing on seats and dancing recklessly. As we frolicked in the dark, I–out of breath, sweaty and sporting a rapidly worsening side cramp–thought to myself, “This is why Rebelution is famous”. It’s like hype music for everyday life. I pondered my life-changing epiphany and the crowd went wild as they closed out the night with an extra-long version of “De-Stress” and sang drummer Wes a heartfelt “Happy Birthday”.
Staggering back to camp through the throngs of smiling faces belonging to fans of all ages from all walks of life, high off Rebelution bass lines, we realized what Eric Rachmany had said earlier was true:
“One thing Rebelution has always been an advocate for is accepting people for their differences. I feel like Cali Roots is the epitome of that ideology, am I right?”