When I think of California Roots, I think of smiles, laughter, amazing friends and phenomenal music. I woke up around 5:30 yesterday morning as the brisk Monterey air filled my tent. With the excitement of a kid on Christmas day, I tried falling back asleep but found myself wired with anticipation for this year’s festival.

Around 10am the line built up outside the venue and wild screams from excited festival-goers filled the streets. I was finishing setting up the Hill Kid tent, right on the corner of the main festival strip (aka “Good Vibes Way”), and listened while the crowd outside erupted over and over with the ultimate enthusiasm for the day that lay ahead.

This marks the seventh year of the now historic music festival, and is California Roots’ biggest year yet. Being my fifth year here, I’ve realized what makes me fall in love with it all over and over – it’s the smiles. It’s the crowd. It’s the friends, and the way everyone looks and feels when they’re listening to their favorite musicians and soaking in the beauty of a perfectly happy day. The moment you look up at the cloudless blue sky and realize you’re surrounded by 10,000 others, all smiling and dancing and living in the excitement of the moment just like you – this is a moment you’ll remember the rest of your life.

The brilliant and magical madness of the festival came in full-swing with the bright California sunshine yesterday. Almost immediately the venue was packed with people ready to celebrate the freedom of walking in to a place where the world makes sense to us – a place where peace, love and good vibes mean something more, and become the way life is lived rather than just a side note. This is truly a special place in time to be a part of.

There’s a good reason both artists and fans hail California Roots as the best weekend of the year for reggae and reggae-rock. Fortunate Youth literally lit the crowd up and left everyone in a haze of brilliant energy – has there ever been a time when Dan Kelly’s raspy, distinct vocals along with the contagious rhythms of the band didn’t make you close your eyes and lose yourself in perfect contentment?

Or how quickly the famous “Bowl Stage” filled with people as Katchafire and J Boog and the Hot Rain Band brought sets that transformed the enormous crowd into a sea of good vibes. Across the festival grounds, underneath the beautiful shade of the trees by the “OG Stage”, Thrive! packed fans in tightly and celebrated with a high-energy set that had the entire place roaring in applause.

When Atmosphere shook the bowl area with heavy bass and his intricately woven lyrical poems, the venue seemed to lift off the ground with his energy – it was unbelievable how much power could be felt there. Not to mention Barrington Levy, The Expendables, Ooklah the Moc and Slightly Stoopid finishing the night out after we’d already had an entire day filled with amazing vibes and excitement – it was hard to imagine there was still more to come when you felt like you’d witnessed so much musical brilliance already – sometime around 6pm you could hear everyone commenting on how epic the day had already been, and there was still so much more music to go!

Slightly Stoopid came strong with their unique, signature mellow Southern California vibes, and it provided the perfect backdrop for looking up into the clear night sky as the stars came out – surrounded by friends and family, I had every reason in the world to smile and take it all in as the Bowl stage erupted once again in applause, overflowing with pure happiness.

For me, this entire day was the epitome of the California Roots experience, and it connects with a core piece of the music we love so much; we’re here to celebrate life, be happy and share good vibes with friends. The happiness and smiles the festival brings us is what makes it so amazing, and fills the fairgrounds each year with people eager to be a part of it.

California Roots is a time when we can all come together, smile, and agree that although sometimes life is hard, the tough moments never last forever. There’s always light if you look for it,  and California Roots is one of the places where it’s easy to see.

The smiles and happiness we feel here are real, and it’s easy to find yourself lost in a moment of pure ecstasy. Every single person that walked through the gates looked like the happiest person in the world – and why wouldn’t they be?

Both artists and fans are busy having the time of their lives, and it makes it easy to grasp the importance of being grateful and celebrating the fact that so much happiness and peace is possible in one place – I personally dream of a day when the entire world vibes like we do here at California Roots.

I rose this morning, smiled big next to my love, and got ready to fill the canvas of my mind with another round of happy memories. Day 2, here we come!

May 27th, 2016 – California Roots Day 1

Photo Credit: Alex Geller of A Geller Photo