Stephen Marley ADD

Best Moments... California Roots Festival 2022

06/04/2022 by Brad Metzger

Best Moments... California Roots Festival 2022

After a two year hiatus, Cali Roots returned triumphantly to The Monterey County Fairgrounds in California May 26-29 with perhaps the best and diverse lineup ever and an added fourth day, a first in its 11 year history.  Sets by Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, Rebelution, Stick Figure and Slightly Stoopid were spectacular and showcased the BEST of Jamaican and Cali Reggae. Dan Sheehan always presents up and coming talent and this year’s highlights were Joe Samba, Artikal Sound System and Chris Del Camino from Hirie. He also brings in amazing foreign talent and this year Dub Inc (from France) blew my mind and it’s what I am listening to days after the festival.

Arise Roots
seriously impressed again, with Roberto “Sloedub” Sotelo’s improvisational guitarwork as some of the best of the entire festival. Tribal Seeds showcased their new lead singer Hector “Roots” Lewis very well while Steven Jacobo rests his vocal cords indefinitely. 

With Chronixx canceling last minute due to rumored Visa issues, the Cali Roots and Ineffable teams brilliantly pulled together a fill in set dubbed “Collie Buddz and Friends” featuring the Cali Roots Riddim track which was one of the best things to come out of the pandemic in the form of a special album with 20 of the top global and rising reggae artists and their take on the Cali Roots Riddim created by Collie Buddz. Many of the artists who were at Cali Roots this year jumped onstage to perform their track. Karim Israel from Arise Roots was up first with his version called Cali Love, followed by a progression including Nattali RizeBumpin UgliesThe ElovatorsThe Expendables and Pepper. Side stage, Igor Katz played air traffic controller as artists lined up in a holding pattern jockeying for their turn to hop on stage. Then came Iya Terra, Common Kings and my favorite of the day, Anthony B. His version of the riddim, Chill Out, is not only my favorite track on the album but it totally translated onstage and although he did the same track with his band at Cali Roots two days later, this one with Collie and his band who produced the riddim was FIRE. As Collie himself said, “Only at Cali Roots".

This was going to be a tough act for Collie to follow with his next set the following day, but sure enough he did it again! For the second time in Cali Roots history, he bought 1,000 Domino’s pizzas for everyone at the Bowl which was packed! This stunt, appreciated for sure, didn’t outshadow the music.

Highlights of the set were back to back ganja songs: Come Around where as Collie explained, he wrote this one in 2006 when herb was illegal pretty much everywhere, followed by a smooth transition right into Legal Now. Collie is known for eyeing the crowd and bringing up a hardcore fan to join him on the mic for Blind To You. The two twin sisters (see photo below backstage with Karim Israel) that came up this time, Daisy and Izzy Collum, were the best fan performers I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a ton. They had the lyrics down perfectly but brought that sister interaction and SASS. 

Ok I’ll say it, Stephen 'Ragga' Marley is the most talented and versatile Reggae artist alive. His performances don’t veer to far from his signature style, vibe and track selection. Why mess with perfection? Instead, there are always a few subtle surprises. The visuals were exceptional, masterfully synced and seemed completely different from Closer To The Sun a few months ago. There were photos of Bob and his kids, gorgeous flowing heart visuals, nature scenes, a Buffalo Soldier logo, all of which I have never seen and I have been known to travel up and down the California coast following Stephen on tour. Even defacto Fan Club President and Ragga expert Susie Tobar hadn’t seen some of these works of art by Art Director Nesta Garrick. Stephen made Iron Lion Zion his own with a dancehall interlude. Rock Stone featured this echo / reverb sound in the introduction and then throughout the song. He ended with rare emotion about how we need to protect our children and we can't rely on government. 

The recent shootings in Texas were clearly top of mind with other artists as well who contributed eloquent comments. “There has never been more of a time for change. How many people do we have to lose before something is done? Wake up! We can't depend on the government” stated Jesse Royal who filled in for Alborosie who was another cancellation. 

Hirie took a more indirect route, bringing onstage a group of children including her young daughter. Although she never said one word about the shooting or guns, her message was clear. It starts with the kids and all of us have responsibility: “The community that Cali Roots has created… they have created a safe heaven, not just for kids but the adults that are here. The amount of transactions that I have seen that have been pure and loving… that is the kind of community that I want to see grow past Cali Roots. We have to set an example for the future generations and this festival is a prime example of what we can do. So whatever you learned, whatever you saw, whatever you liked, bring it home, bring it to your community, bring it to your apartment complex, have pizza parties, BBQ for all the kids in the neighborhood, look out for one another, and lets make this thing that makes Cali Roots so special something that can grow and become not just America but the world. We have bands here from other countries. Let’s show them what we got y’all. Bring this energy home with you because these kids right here, they are the future for all of us and we need to set the precedent.” 

This got me thinking… I realized I had not witnessed one fight or aggressive interaction all weekend. Also, that morning on Sunday, the last day of the festival, I was out super early, before the 10.30am start of Vana Liya. I was walking around the festival in the silence which was a very unique perspective. (SOJA is right, there is Beauty In The Silence.) The grounds were immaculate, there was no trash on the ground, you could hear children laughing and instead of the smiles and nods with music blaring I had been accustomed to all weekend, strangers were greeting each other and there was one hundred percent positivity. Hirie was right. What a special environment. If this could only translate to everyone and “real life,” how different would the world be? Of course this is wishful thinking but we can all dream right.