As Monterey woke up for day two of Cali Roots, there was a heavy overcast throughout the neighborhood. Thankfully clouds and thick fog are nothing new to reggae enthusiasts, and the festival proceeded without missing a beat. Day two was a day which focused on roots, both of Reggae and heritage. The artists that played Saturday had a much more thematic tie to family bonds, both those that we are born with, and the family we chose as we go through life. Saturday proved to be a much-appreciated reminder of how music can celebrate a deep and multi-layered message.
The day opened with the Ries Brothers’ set on the Cali Roots stage. A young fraternal duo from Tampa Bay Florida, they won the hearts of the crowd in the early morning by giving a new meaning to the term “multi-instrumentalist.” Older brother Charlie Ries played drums with one hand, played the keyboard with the other, and provided vocals, while younger brother Kevin Ries switched between guitar and bass while simultaneously playing a keyboard of his own. The ambidextrous duo was quite the crowd draw and brought fans out to the festival early in the day to give it momentum from the get-go.
While Cali Roots has always represented culture, few artists can do so in the same way as Xiuhtezcatl. An internationally recognized activist, he might be more commonly known for his advocacy for environmental issues. As a younger child, he first began his relationship with music to facilitate the spreading of this message. His set at Cali Roots, however, primarily focused all issues through his celebration for his connection to his Aztech and Mexican roots. The lyrically motivated set prompted a wide variety of emotions from those lucky enough to see it.
Roots ran deep throughout the day in many ways, and above all, the day celebrated the icons who helped create modern Reggae. Stephen Marley gave a powerful set dedicated to his father, Bob Marley, as well as the music he has built on his merit. His presence served as a reminder of the influence the Marley dynasty on reggae music and culture. After a set of his original songs, he closed his set with a series of covers from his father’s repertoire. A well-received memorial to the foundations of the genre.
Although they were not a band of the reggae variety, Latin rock band Ozomatli gave the crowd a much needed second wind late in the day with their incredibly high energy performance. The high tempo dance music was a welcome change of pace from the laid-back mood of the day so far. The shift in genre served as a reminder of the open-minded mission statement of the festival, wherein that California and the whole reggae music community was made by those of all backgrounds coming together to create something meaningful to a larger community.
Dispatch, a band that has genuinely written their own legacy across decades, played late in the day to a full house at the Bowl stage. Masterfully blending pensive lyrics and mellow moods, strangers in the audience began to feel like fast friends thanks to their inspiration. By the time the band performed their career-defining song “The General,” the crowd was fully invested. The Bowl turned into an arena of voices harmoniously singing along as one. The lyrical single’s message of peace, love, and self-discovery rang as true to the audience’s ears in 2018 as it did 20 years ago. Following up the theme of violence inspiring peace, and in a powerful moment toward the end of their set, they then presented the audience with one of their newest songs “Dear Congress” after a heartfelt speech from frontman Chad Urmston on why they felt so compelled to produce this song after our country’s recent trend of school shootings. The piece understandably left the audience feeling emotional and raw moving forward in the night.
J Boog, the penultimate performance of the night, drew in an enthusiastic crowd. For the pride of Wash House, the stage was set for him to showcase just how far he has come in his career. From a developing a dedicated cult following to the top-billed performer to play the Cali Roots stage, he has taken his island sound to new and inspiring heights in the last few years of his career. His set enthralled day one fans and newcomers alike. For the first few songs in his set, he stood like stone, glued to his mic stand with stoic physical composure. It was a treat to see his evolution throughout the set as he warmed up to the crowd and eventually moved from his stand at center stage to great the audience as he became more comfortable with the way the show was unfolding.
Cali Roots veterans Rebelution ended the day with a set which festival regulars could and would never grow tired of. Although the band has been known for playing at almost every incarnation of the festival, they played with so much energy one would think it was their first time getting to experience the festival. The night faded away with the music, leaving the crowd in a noticeably positive mood. Feeling a close bond to the friends made throughout the day, the crowd left the fairgrounds enamored with the experience so far and oddly prepared for the bittersweet feeling of starting the last day of the festival the next morning.