“We set our blogging intern Caemen Amelio free on the first day of the fest, and this is what he wrote about his experience!”

By: Caemen Amelio

The 9th annual California Roots Festival kicked off on May 25 at the fairgrounds in Monterey, CA. As soon as the gates opened fans flooded into the historic venue with smiles on their faces, looking forward to the long weekend ahead. It didn’t take long for irie smells to drift through the air, and for the musical festivities to begin.

The music kicked off at 11 with explosive performances from Tropidelic and The Movement – the energy was incredible. Among the standout acts early in the day was Ocean Alley, an Australian group who combines elements of psychedelic rock with reggae. This event also happened to serve as their U.S. debut!

Their songs and energy were amazing, and everyone left looking insanely happy. As the day moved into the afternoon, the music and vibes were just getting started. Hirie and Alpha Blondy kept people dancing from stage-to-stage, and both had such a chill vibe; you could really get a sense of soul from them. The crowd took in the music and danced freely in the sun.

As the evening grew closer, hip-hop legend E-40 took the stage. It was a bit of a change considering most of the artists lean more towards reggae, but Cali Roots is famous for embracing all genres as long as the vibe is right. The crowd packed thick across the fairgrounds, and the legendary artist delivered his signature Bay Area sound that helped his epic career. It was an energetic set that included a lot of crowd participation, and it was clear that the Bay Area was happy to have him here.

The final part of the evening was an incredible blur of music and happiness. Steel Pulse brought their high-energy theatrics and beautiful tunes to the stage, and Atmosphere had the entire audience with their hands to the sky. It was especially cool when Brother Ali, who performed earlier in the day, joined Atmosphere onstage.

Before we knew it day 1 was almost over, and the massive crowd was headed to the famous Bowl stage to witness Iration closing the night out. Iration had the entire crowd singing and dancing in unison, and gave me the feeling that summer had officially started. The light show washed over us under the starry Monterey sky, and we soaked in the final moments of the beginning of our epic 3-day weekend.

Aside from the awesome music, fans were treated to a number of other experiences. One in particular was the brilliant art; walking around and looking at all of it was worth the price of admission alone. There were colorful paintings and drawings featuring everything from musicians like Jimi Hendrix, to pop culture stuff like Rick And Morty. As someone who appreciates harder music as well, The Misfits themed art was especially awesome. One of the coolest parts was we were treated to artists creating new pieces live in person, right in front of us!

Walking through the festival you find yourself surrounded with everything from artist merch to tribal masks and glass-blowing – it’s like a wonderland of creativity and fun. It was also hard not to stop at every single food stand… they had pretty much anything you could imagine! Barbeque, Mexican food, Indian food, seafood, and vegan options… the fried artichokes were especially tasty!

Drinks were plentiful too, whether it be the free water station, the multiple Sierra Nevada and Altamont booths, or the lemonade stand. One popular stop in the festival was the Weedmaps Village, which featured a special Weedmaps stage. The awesome thing about this stage was the fact that it had a huge screen that would broadcast performances from groups on the main stages. Fans were able to sit on comfortable bean bags and just relax while still watching the artists. It also served as a place for fans to watch a few special performances and some live interviews as well.

All in all, everyone seemed to genuinely have an amazing time, except maybe the select few
that happened to pass out early on in the day. By now, the tone has definitely been set for what’s to come in these next two days.