Best Moments... Cali Vibes 2022
02/10/2022 by Brad Metzger
With Goldenvoice’s inaugural Cali Vibes Festival in Long Beach, CA, Feb. 4-6, Reggae music moved into big time, highly produced, music festival territory. The sound, visuals and overall production quality were exceptional and it was the first time I’ve experienced pyrotechnics (during Rebelution) and fire effects (during Stick Figure) at a Reggae festival. Iya Terra got in on the action with that cliché rock star maneuver - destroying their guitars and other equipment at the end of their set.
The most hyped set of course was The Marley Brothers headlining on Saturday. They absolutely delivered, as they always do. With Bob’s 77th birthday the following day, this was a set devoted exclusively to Bob songs mostly alternating between the brothers each taking the lead except for Wake Up And Live, Survival, Could You Be Loved, and Exodus as group efforts with the bothers trading the mic back and forth. For the first time ever, the brothers recorded and released a Bob Marley song together called Cornerstone, a cover of the early Wailers song from 1970. This track was released on Friday (Feb. 4), the day before this performance, so I was shocked that they didn’t perform it.
The overlapping set times, as with any festival like this, creates tension for true music obsessives. Do you stay for Stick Figure’s whole set, their first big performance since the pandemic, or do you go catch half of Barrington Levy who hasn’t played in LA for years? I couldn’t tear myself away from Stick Figure’s best set I’ve ever seen. Drummer Kevin Offitzer agrees: "…one of our best shows in 10 years." Stick founder Scott and mascot Cocoa The Tour Dog towered over Long Beach on the 2 massive screens with a backdrop of the gorgeous downtown skyline. Timed perfectly, out came Kyle from Slightly Stoopid who popped onstage during Choice Is Yours for my favorite collab of the weekend which was filled with endless exciting onstage collabs. And this was a textbook collab. Timely entrance into the song and during a song that fits with what the joining artist brings to the table, and don't overstay your welcome. It’s about the band onstage, not your brief appearance in the set. After Stick Figure, I made it over to The Greens Stage just in time to catch one of Barrington Levy’s black roses he was tossing out into the crowd. He performed Black Roses better than ever, with renewed energy having slimmed down a bit. The youthful Cali crowd up front was grooving big time but it seemed like they lacked the context to know what it meant for Barrington Levy to hand you a rose, even a black one.
Back to the procession of onstage collaborations. SOJA brought up Eli Mac and Common Kings for Funny off of their new and excellent album Beauty In The Silence. Don Carlos shared almost his entire set time with his nephew Kailash and the youth made fantastic use of the time showing off his high pitched voice and genuine roots vibe. Ozzie We Should Smoke made his signature appearance with Fortunate Youth, blazing a bat sized spliff. Fortunate Youth was even better than usual. The horn section was on fire, but the main difference, or improvement, was that Dan Kelly was truly engaged and connected to the crowd, seemingly not as intoxicated as usual. After telling us this was his first show in 2 years, Protoje challenged the crowd to a jumping contest to see who had more energy as he transitioned into Who Knows, followed by a quick pull UP and then back on point dropping some improvisational Cali Vibes lyrics as he welcomed Jesse Royal on stage. [photo below: Protoje with Ziah .Push]
Tribal Seeds drummer Jamey "Zeb" Dekofsky was all over the place also joining with Arise Roots, Eli Mac and Slightly Stoopid on percussions. Once again proving he’s the hardest working drummer in Reggae. Some other notable collabs included: Arise Roots + Hirie, SOJA + Anuhea, Sublime With Rome + Hirie, Eli Mac + Nattali Rize, Slightly Stoopid + Don Carlos + Kailash and Iya Terra + Glenn Holdaway, Eric Hirschhorn, Quinncarson on horns.
After seeing Hirie open up for Stephen Marley at Closer To The Sun a few months ago and her important set on Day 3 here at Cali Vibes, it's clear Trish Jetton and the Hirie band has arrived.
Their performances have grown in confidence and versatility tremendously over the last few years and they have a way of reading the crowd. When I caught Hirie at Reggae Rise Up Las Vegas in October the crowd was amped up and Hirie countered appropriately with a super high energy set and song selection. At Closer To The Sun preceding Stephen Marley, the occasion felt grand and she matched that with a serious momentous and emotional performance. At Cali Vibes it was all about having a blast on a Sunday afternoon as she twirled and high stepped her way all over the stage. Saxophonist Chris Hampton was featured on the flute during Don’t Take My Ganja while Hirie took to the mic for Barrington Levy’s Broader Than Broadway. The highlight of the set was Karim Israel from Arise Roots joining for their brand new single YOUniverse that was a released a few days prior.
The 3rd stage was dubbed The BoomYard Stage, powered by Delicious Vinyl, replicating the LA pop up sound system party vibe. Marlon Asher didn’t make it due to visa issues but Mr Vegas, backed by DJ Joe Young put on a Dancehall clinic! However, when one of his barely dressed dancers jumped up on his crotch and he dry humped her, thrusting and bouncing her up and down, the politically correct Cali women up front looked agast and seemed a bit offended. Jesse Royal laid down a memorable set as he improvised over DJ Jason Panton after paying respects to all of his friends that were flanking him on the stage including Koffee.
“Welcome to Cali Roots! This is the BoomYard stage!” Yeah, he thought he was at Cali Roots for a moment, not Cali Vibes. He wasn’t the only one. Throughout the weekend multiple artists gave shout outs to Cali Roots, instead of Cali Vibes, perhaps a subliminal nod of respect to seminal festival Cali Roots founder Dan Sheehan who was in attendance.
All in all the Goldenvoice team delivered on a very well produced, successful inaugural Cali Vibes. Can’t wait to see what next year brings.
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