By: Paige Hawkins

It feels like a dream, doesn’t it? The California Roots Music and Arts Festival was a week ago, but I know I’m not the only one who has been fantasizing back to that beautiful weekend and wishing it never ended. I find myself lost in thought, back in the Bowl and the rain and the crowd that felt like one, with lights pulsing above our heads and the hypnotic beats thumping below our feet. I go back to looking around the crowd and seeing friends and strangers alike as we were all there together in the same moment, feeling the same energy uplifting us as we claimed time for ourselves and danced away the weekend. In honor of those friends and strangers, and of the countless staff members, volunteers and vendors who work to make the magic happen for all of us, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the many faces of California Roots this 2019.

1. Bartenders are usually some of the busiest people at the festival, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying the “freaking amazing” vibes and the fantastic music. The fans are who they’re really there for, as Rachel, one of the exuberant bartenders in the Redwood Lounge, told me in no uncertain terms. As she put it they’re there to, “serve the people” and while they have TVs livestreaming the shows at the Cali Roots Stage and the Bowl, they’re there to make sure we have the best weekend possible. She talked about being a support system for people who came in needing someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on and passionately told me, “If someone needs a hug, give them a hug. If someone doesn’t need a hug, give them a damn hug!” California Roots is filled with with laughter, great energy and a feeling of instant friendship and the phenomenally talented bartenders that I met seemed to embody that spirit throughout the weekend.


2.
As the sun came out around 2:30 on Saturday I was wandering over to the Cali Roots Stage to catch The Movement when I was mesmerized by a flowing and beautiful dancing butterfly. I later learned her name was Tica and her wings were that of the tropical morpho butterfly, but in that moment I just stood and stared as she danced and twirled in her own world, seemingly unaware of her growing crowd of admirers. Relaxed and uninhibited, her wings flowed through the air as the mellow beats of The Movement eased through the crowd. A vision you would only see at California Roots, Tica the Morpho Butterfly embraced the Cali Roots vibes to the fullest.

3. When we get to the Monterey fairgrounds for Cali Roots weekend it feels like its’ own little universe. The elaborate installations, booming sound systems and iconic stages are all magically in place and ready for us year after year, but what we don’t see is the amount of work that goes into making that possible. Dedicated professionals start setting up the festival at least a week before the actual event, working day and night to ensure that everything is ready when the party gets going. As one of the few local stagehands, Cowboy Starr is a familiar face behind the scenes and this was his fifth year working at the Cali Roots festival. Day-to-day, Cowboy works at the Golden State Theater in downtown Monterey and performs as a musician himself, but Cali Roots is an event he looks forward to year round. Image from: Instagram: @cowboystarr


4.
It’s always fantastic to see a familiar face up on stage, and this Cali Roots we had the pleasure of seeing our very own Brendan Clemente playing an acoustic set with returning artist Kyle Smith. While Brendan started out as a blogger for the festival, he now works behind the scenes with the media team working to capture every aspect of the fan experience. Although he has previously played the festival with his old band The Stircrazies, this year was his first year up on stage individually, and it was amazing to witness his Cali Roots performance surrounded by the community he has contributed to for so long. Looking into the dancing crowd full of fans and festival staff alike, it was easy to see how many people were proud and excited to be there with him, how enthusiastic and appreciative Kyle was up on stage with him, and how happy Brendan was to be there performing for us all. He left his heart out on the stage and gave voice to the moment perfectly, laughing incredulously as he thought about what, “16-year-old Brendan” would think of him up on stage at the ten-year anniversary of California Roots, and how important it is to chase your dreams and never give up. It’s wonderful to watch someone achieve their dreams in front of your eyes and being a part of that performance with the Cali Roots family, surrounded by support and pride for one of our own, was an absolutely incredible experience. Image from: Instagram @brendanclementemusic


5.
Gato Montes is a “Creator of handmade goods in stones, metal, leather and fibers” and let me tell you, he is absolutely phenomenal. The ingenious artist specializes in festival fashion and crafts leather purses, satchels, holsters, utility belts, backpacks, boots, and jewelry that are set with gorgeous stones and metal accents to make every piece one-of-a-kind. I stayed enthralled in the booth for at least half an hour, falling in love with an amazing green leather and moonstone utility belt and chatting with Gato. He told me that after trying to get into the festival for years this was his first year participating, and he was so excited to get in and share his creations with us. His individually designed goods were clearly a source of pride and passion for the artist as he demonstrated the innovative way he ensures each piece is custom fit to the buyer. The brilliant mechanism allows for multi-use products to be fit to size with the snap of a button, a design he worked on for years before perfecting.


His wearable art pieces instantly make you stand out from the crowd, and you can feel the love and care that goes into every individual item. If you missed out this past weekend but are still interested in Gato’s work, you can check it out at his website,
www.elgatomontes.com or his instagram, @el.gato.montes.
Image from instagram @el.gato.montes


6.
If there’s one thing we can appreciate at Cali Roots, it’s a good place to get off our feet and relax and this past weekend Ikanik Farms provided the chillest place to kick back. With a beautiful lounge and a crowd of people lining up for the chance to spin a wheel and win stickers, discounts on merchandise, or custom screen printed tees, the festival sponsor took every opportunity to connect with the Cali Roots community. The “rider driven and cannabis inspired,” clothing brand created a luxe environment for fans to unwind and jam out near the Cali Roots stage as they connected with people throughout the festival, and we look forward to them bringing back the good vibes next year. Image from instagram @ikanikfarms


7.
Music festivals tend to push us to our limits. We’re up day and night dancing and partying, and hardly have the chance to take care of ourselves. California Roots isn’t your average festival though, and Revive Kombucha isn’t your average pick-me-up. On day two of the festival I stopped at the Revive Kombucha stand and started talking with Tanner & Kristen, the enthusiastic workers running the place. They brought up how important self-care is at a festival, and how much they love seeing how people react to the product. As they put they were, “reviving people as they come up [to them], watching their eyes light up as they try it!” They also brought up how great it was for festival-goers who don’t drink alcohol because they can still feel included and have a drink in their hand with their friends and not feel left out. Both Tanner and Kristen stressed the importance of providing an inclusive community in every way possible. The girls then treated me to a cup of their ginger-lime kombucha and I swear to you, my eyes did light up and I suddenly felt refreshed and ready to keep the night going. Brewed in Sonoma County, Revive Kombucha features drinks that are, “organic, packed full of live probiotics, and vegan,” to give everyone a little extra pep in their step, and I hope we see them at many Cali Roots to come! Image from Instagram: @revivekombucha


8. The multifaceted, incredibly talented array of artists were a sight to see at California Roots this year. I had the pleasure of exploring the creative domain of Michael Rohner, the artist who creates breathtaking, mixed media paintings which seek to, “uplift, inspire, and comfort you with his imagery.” I couldn’t resist taking home a print of one of his latest pieces, “Walk With Me” featuring a powerful golden phoenix surrounded by delicate butterflies. His pen-and-ink style is uniquely his own and the vibrant work speaks for itself, the fantastical images transporting the viewer into the artists’ mind and imagination. His booth immersed us with beautifully chaotic images encompassed by clean lines and solid wood, and throughout the weekend his space remained consistently packed with people eager to bring a little bit of the Cali Roots magic home with them. If you’re interested in staying up to date with Michael’s latest work, check out his website at www.rohnerart.com or his instagram @RohnerArt. Image from https://californiarootsfestival.com/art-retreat