By: Paige Hawkins
Well everyone, the tenth annual Cali Roots festival flew by faster than we could have imagined. We spent the weekend surrounded by incredible people and sensational music, celebrating a decade of the California Roots Music and Arts festival side-by-side through rain and shine. The mellow vibe in the morning rain went on through the afternoon as people streamed through the entrance still tired from the nights before but excited to enjoy the last day of the festival. The underwater theme seemed especially appropriate on Sunday as grey skies covered the fairgrounds, but nothing could dampen our spirits and we spent the morning jamming out to the electric beats of The Elevators, Kabaka Pyramid, Xiehtzcatl and Dread Mari, switching between tank tops and ponchos to dance under sprinkling skies. The festival grounds filled up and excitement built you could feel the energy in the air as we all got ready to go all out on the last day of California Roots 2019.
Walking around from the Art Retreat to Smkflwr Lounge you could feel the peace in the air as groups of people laid out on chic couches surrounded by swaying palms to watch the live stream and milled around to enjoy the vitality of the art in the retreat. Muralists enraptured audiences around the cozy space and throughout the festival grounds, and passionate people of all ages had the pleasure of fulfilling their own artistic vision with the fantastically talented Haven Art Sisters. Live artists are an intrinsic element of Cali Roots and the Haven Art Sisters have been part of the show from the very beginning. You could feel their love for the Cali Roots community from beginning to end of the painting session that welcomed everyone from little kids to groups of friends to people just hanging out by themselves feeling the creative vibes. The Sisters started us off at noon with an empowering message as they instructed us all to confidently shout to the rooftops, “I am an artist!” before setting us free to create whatever our heart desired. Surrounded by positivity and the occasional encouragement from Elizabeth and Anna, time flew by as the sun made an appearance and the mellow music of Jesse Royal and Matisyahu provided a perfect soundtrack to the afternoon.
After finishing up with the Haven Sisters I made my way to the Bowl for Collie Buddz, and it was packed tight full of excited fans from the very front of the stage to the back of the Jahlibyrd Lounge. The lead-in to their set was electric and brought all of us to our feet, singing and dancing along as the breeze bounced effervescent bubbles above our heads and around of the stage. The Haven Art Sisters were on stage finishing a piece from the previous day and we could feel their exuberance from the crowd while they painted to the rhythm of the song and seemed to be in a moment all their own, the spirals of rainbow colors from their piece seeming to symbolize the bright circle of love and community that Cali Roots is known for. Collie Buddz kept the crowd thrilled throughout the show when first he brought out a friend smoking a half-pound joint to dance with onstage as he remixed “Come Around” and sang, “finally the herbs legal now!” before buying everyone lunch and delivering an endless sea of pizza to the hysterical crowd while serenading us with his hit, “Good Life” and iridescent confetti sparkled in the air. As I watched this massive amount of people share a meal, what hit me most was that people weren’t fighting over it or trying to hoard boxes for themselves. Everyone was grabbing a slice and then checking that their neighbor was fed as well then passing along the pizza to make sure the generosity was equally shared. It’s these small moments that really encapsulate what Cali Roots is about for us all and that moment of pure generosity, starting from Collie Buddz and extending through to touch every one of us in the crowd as we all enjoyed a slice together, was a perfect demonstration of that spirit.
Due to some changes in the scheduling Alborosie was next at the Cali Roots stage followed by Cypress Hill before Soja and Rebelution took the stage in the Bowl. The party continued throughout the night, and as the sun fell the grounds lit up with vibrant colors and lights, keeping the energy high and the feeling of adventure going. The family reunion continued during Soja’s set as they brought out Hirie and Collie Buddz and a transcendent violin solo from the talented Richard Vagner lit up the Bowl. With everyone rocking out on stage together it was impossible not to feel that exhilaration in the crowd and we danced, sang and collectively lost our minds. Rebelution was the last act of the weekend and as always, their set brought the house down. There’s a reason they are such a heavyweight of Cali Roots, and as the entire crowd sang along to classics like, “Safe and Sound” and “Feeling Alright” the ceiling of lasers sparkled in the rain like fireworks and dusky trails of smoke wafted across the crowd. Eric Rachmany paused for a melancholy moment to reflect back on the celebration of the festival and how much California Roots means to Rebelution as a band, about how amazing it is to have ten years of a festival that celebrates reggae legends, reggae bands from Jamaica, and reggae inspired bands from all over the world in one event that brings the entirety of the community together in one place. The love that we could all feel throughout the weekend was especially strong the last night as we danced in the rain together under the flare of brightly lit lasers and the mesmerizing sway of Rebelution classics. With all of us partying like it was a race to the finish line, the last day of the festival gave us a perfect ending to the perfect celebration with an amazing community. Thank you to everyone who joined us, we can’t wait to see what next year will bring!