California Roots Festival Highlights: Day 1

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 | Comments (0)

Like most up-and-coming writers, our day jobs often get in the way of multi-day festivals. We write all week to get in free, drowning at our crappy jobs to pay the way once we get there. We spend the entire weekend running between bands, posting iPhone photos to social media, and trying to finagle free meals. We do it for the love of live music. We do it because we wouldn’t have lives if we stayed home all weekend. So it was nothing new that a crisis at the office resulted in missing most of Friday. But rolling into Monterey County just after 9pm, I was able to park and get to will call before headliners, Rebelution, even took the stage. At least I’d made it for that.

Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law always lays it down in the most critical of situations. The girl in the ticket booth had no idea who I was, much less who the media organizers were. So there I was, with a line of pre-party-drunk VIP ticket holders waiting behind me while I frantically searched my emails for phone numbers. Thankfully, and one of many reasons why Moore Media shined all weekend, the head organizer returned my text to confirm we’d meet at the artist gate in five minutes. Sort of running along Fairgrounds Blvd., and without wanting to show up sweaty and out of breath, I paused for a few seconds to pull myself together. Luckily I had my two trusted travel partners, Jameson and his lady Ginger, who proved once again essential allies as I journeyed clear across the 20 acre property.

By the time I arrived at the gate, Rebelution was already on stage. Looking out on the crowd, there was no way I was gonna mash through nearly 10,000 fans already up against the railings. It was literally a sea of bouncing heads and puffs of smoke. Fortunately, for those who can afford it, music festivals have turned to offering VIP ticket holders access to backstage areas. For an extra $100, you can hang out with artists and media and stand in side-stage balcony boxes high over the crowds. It can be an awesome opportunity to enjoy the bands while keeping a drink in your hand, but nothing beats being smashed up against railings watching your favorite singer drip sweat down the mic cord. [Read more after the break]

Rebelution - Photo by James LeDeau Photography - www.facebook.com/jamesledeauphotography

Rebelution opened with “Other Side” and played through a lot of their latest album, Piece Of Mind (2012). They threw in several of their biggest hits, most of which are off 2009’s Brighter Side Of Life. The album is arguably one of the best Cali-style reggae rock albums in the last decade. Lead singer, Eric Rachmany, gave shout outs to his family and home town friends, sending the largely local crowd jumping up and down in solidarity. (Drummer Wes Finley is from Monterey County). The positive dancing vibes on the field were massive, palpable in that I actually felt the ground moving. And it may have been the smoke, or the way the Oak trees cast trippy shadows over the audience, but the stage lighting was one of the best I have ever seen, with huge LED screens looping psychedelic graphics of water patterns and spacey geometry throughout the show.

Backstage, I settled into finding friends and colleagues. Just about everyone associated with the reggae scene in Sonoma County was present including promoters, DJs and recording artists. Santa Rosa’s Casa Rasta were loading equipment for the band Rootz Underground and getting ready to spin records the next day. Unity Pro Motions was passing out flyers for Reggae On the River. Mystic Beat Lounge had been hired to do the press room and artist space decorations. With just three years under its belt, California Roots was already shaping up to be the best new reggae festival in Northern California.

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