Cali Roots 2024 | Day One | Recap

Article Contributed by Nick Gumas | Published on Sunday, June 2, 2024

Cali Roots, the annual California Montereggae classic, has proven itself time and time again as not just the family reunion but the spiritual gathering of the year in the American reggae scene. Its 13th year at the Monterey County Fairgrounds proved to be quite possibly the greatest in the festival's tenure, showcasing the unabridged history of the genre, from the new and upcoming to celebrating the Marley legacy, and just about everything in between.

Dan Kelly of Fortunate Youth | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

In a year that featured such a strong lineup, even some of the first artists to perform touted accolades that demonstrated enviable merit. Kicking off the weekend on the Cali Roots stage was Grammy-winning artist Kabaka Pyramid, who delivered a strong and upbeat start to the weekend and was as heavily attended as any. With invigorating energy, he delivered a set that set the tone for the weekend, including “Can’t Breathe,” “Rock Mi Nice,” and “Stand Up.”

Kabaka Pyramid | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

Given Cali Roots’ track record for developing bands and their careers, fans often find it easy to form a connection with artists as they see them grow with the project throughout the years. Fans and promoters alike made no attempt to hide their feelings about New England phenom The Elovators becoming the latest to join this tradition, as even the emcee announced the project as a future headliner of the festival before their set. The band more than lived up to the hype from the moment they walked onto the stage, delivering a set where the audience’s voice could be heard louder than frontman Jackson Wetherbee’s coming through the speakers. The hour seemed to have no lows and only highs as they played hits from their entire catalog, including “Wind on My Back,” “Castaway,” and “Gimme Love.”

The Elovaters | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

It would be impossible to pay full respect to the musical roots of California without giving due credit to the pioneers of its hip-hop scene. For those who grew up with this type of music, seeing E-40 and Too Short perform alongside each other on the Bowl stage was nothing short of a historic event. The reverence most had shown for blankets on the grass, staking claim close to the stage, held no further meaning as fans took advantage of every inch of standing room they could and moved as close to the stage as possible. In the moments leading up to the performance, fans wasted no breath acknowledging the sounds of “Bay Area” coming through the speakers or responding with expletives when asked if they knew Too Short’s favorite word. As Too Short took the stage first, his energy shook the grounds as he powered through his greatest hits, from “Burn Rubber” to “Blow the Whistle.” When it came time for E-40 to pick up the mic, the two performed in tandem, showcasing Earl Stevens’ contributions to the scene from “Function” to “Choices.”

E-40 and Too Short | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

In a moment befitting the weight and drama of the climactic occasion, the rain started to fall just as headliner Ziggy Marley took the stage. Introduced by reggae legend Rocky Bailey, Marley walked onstage with an acoustic guitar in hand to begin the night with a cover of “Shalom Salaam.” His set was a mix of the history of his father’s legacy and his own, as he covered his family’s discography comprehensively, including “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Positive Vibration,” and “Top Rankin’,” but focused mostly on his own work such as “Circle of Peace,” “Moving Forward,” and “Be Free.” Toward the end of his performance, Marley stopped the show to check on a fan who had fallen in the audience. In perhaps the best or worst-timed coincidence, as they were helped to their feet and escorted out of the crowd by the staff, Marley began to play his 1989 hit “Look Who’s Dancing.” As Marley wrapped up his performance and walked offstage, an emcee walked on and began sending the crowd home. Marley returned to interrupt the announcements with an encore that drew fans back to the stage. Time, however, was not on his side, as his microphone was cut off before he could finish his encore. As he stared off to the side of the stage, he could not help but grin and laugh. In an unannounced cameo, the artist’s brother Stephen Marley came onstage to congratulate him in front of the crowd and end the night by creating anticipation for his set the next day as he projected “Rastafari” loudly to the crowd. Drenched yet rejuvenated, the crowd finally dispersed on the first day of Cali Roots.

Ziggy Marley | California Roots | Monterey, Ca

Check out more photos from Day One of Cali Roots 2024.