California Roots 2016

The song Truckin’ by The Grateful Dead goes “What a long strange trip it’s been”, and at the moment this is the only phrase I can think of that can accurately describe my recent solo pilgrimage to California Roots in Monterey, Ca. I had never been to California before this trip, so flying into San Francisco International airport at 2am had me dazed and confused. Pushing my rental Prius to 130 mph for two and a half hours, I finally made it to the Laguna Seca Campgrounds in Salinas at about 6 am. I made a quick and groggy decision to park my car at the first unnamed campsite I came across since the staff wasn’t awake to direct me to the overflow campsite. Waking up two hours later, almost all of my surrounding camping neighbors and I realized we had pitched our tents in the volunteer section. It seemed as if overflow campers were doing just that, overflowing. Although aside from the campsite mishap, one of the best parts of Day one was the view of the flooding of tents that lined the massive hilled horizon that made up Laguna Seca. Compared to the concrete jungle of New York City I deal with day to day, California “takes the cake” for its absolutely breathtaking views.
After getting little to no sleep during the last 12 hours of traveling, the time had come for the show to begin. After presumptively buying a shuttle pass for the show I came to realize shuttle busses are fun for two reasons and two reasons only. First you always feel like your on your way to summer camp with everyone screaming, playing music and joking around. Second you save yourself from drinking and driving or in some cases indulging in other substances and driving. Almost immediately, waiting on line to enter the Monterey Fairgrounds you could feel the positive vibrations radiating off of people like UV rays off your skin. A woman with an infant and a CB radio strapped to her chest rolled down the line of people waiting to enter and was yelling for us to have our tickets and I.d ready. California Roots seemed like the “melting pot” of reggae festivals due to its interesting crowd made up of girls dressed as if they were ready for coachella part deux or for the rebirth of the 1970’s, families with small children wearing sound protection headphones, a predominate group of Cali-Mexicans, and dreadlocked fans.
I wandered around a bit from one vendor booth to the next of local beer, local food, and local art. One vendor was specifically selling glass bongs, pipes, rolling papers and anything else you might have forgotten for your smoking habit on your way into the festival. As a native New Yorker I was caught off guard by the large number of people smoking bongs and pipes in plain sight. Although I had my own supply, the people I happened to make conversation with throughout the weekend were offering me hits from their joints or their bongs, and were repeatedly taking me under their wings of positivity as they learned that I came all the way from New York, alone. Sitting and waiting for a band to start, a group of guys offered me a dab (concentrated THC) that put me on my ass and usually I shy away from smoking dabs as I get too stoned to remember anything, but I figured “when in Rome”, although in this case California, why not. Marijuana is both socially and legally acceptable in California to the point where the security guards even joked about it. One of them stopped at a crowd of people in front of me and jokingly asked to see their medical cards just to see their reactions, before walking away as everyone erupted with laughter. One of the best spouts of laughter I shared with a random person was when we both noticed that someone had blown up a condom as a balloon and it was being tossed throughout the crowd. The best part was watching everyone’s facial reaction as they shuddered and screamed in horror after realizing they were hitting a slimy lubed condom balloon. Silly things like a sex store blow-up doll and an inflatable sea horse defined the hysterics of the crowd.
There were so many great song collaborations throughout the three days of Cali Roots that I just couldn’t keep up with it. Almost all of the bands that played featured a member of another band at one point during their set, making it clear to me once more that reggae is the most inclusive genre of music I’ve come to know. Every band is supporting one another or collaborating to create even more eclectic music. One of my favorite collaborations was with Eric Rachmany from Rebelution who performed Mind Block with Stick Figure. Another favorite was Fourtunate Youth’s closing song sweet sensi that included Hirie, members from the band Sensamotion, and a bunch of other artists that my foggy stoner memory can’t recall. After experiencing California Roots I know now that festivals in New York wouldn’t be able to compare to the California vibes I absorbed for three days. What I came to love the most and is a clear example of the vibes of this particular festival is how almost all of the artists were hanging out in the crowd. It felt inmate, in a way that we all felt like we were back home, wherever that be for each of us, jamming and singing together in a garage somewhere. Bands were even performing mini surprise acoustic sets for the crowd and the vendors. But wait, there’s more! California Roots was being streamed live all weekend which made it easy not to miss any of the action.
Up or down left or right, at 360 degrees, no matter what angle you look at it, California Roots is reggae. As a newbie to this three day festival, I had no idea about what I was getting myself into yet I say this with the most positivity behind it because positivity was the only thing I was receiving at California Roots. The entirety of the three days was a collective of reggae legends, like the Marley sons and grandsons, performing alongside of upcoming local reggae artists encompassing vibes that are hard to put into words. This festival was an amazing experience and I recommend that anyone who loves reggae should give it a try at least once in their life. On my flight back to New York I felt as if I had never left home. It felt as if I had just been out of town on a family trip, enjoying the simplicity of good times, good food and great music. I’m looking forward to making the pilgrimage once more to be apart of the 8th annual California Roots Festival.

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