The last day of a festival is always bittersweet, but fans came to the fairgrounds early to take in as much of Cali Roots as they could. Day three began as festival goers trickled in just as New Kingston wrapped up their sound check. Walking through the gates of the fairgrounds with this live music already playing earlier than usual proved an uplifting and exciting experience to the festival. Starting the day with New Kingston set a positive tone for the rest of the day. The New York-based, Jamaican-minded family band made up of the members of the Panton dynasty put everyone in a good mood. The love they felt for their home, and each other radiated throughout their whole performance. Also representing Kingston, Raging Fyah brought a Caribbean flair with their set later in the day.
Toronto based hip-hop/reggae/everything else in between band Darenots performed an afternoon set that got the audience dancing. To see Darenots is an experience one is unlikely to forget. The group has created a genre entirely of their own. A show as visually stimulating as musically, vocalist Rev did not spend much time standing in one place as he confidently swaggered about the stage. The high energy set was among the highlights of the day.
In the middle of the day, one band, in particular, touched some hearts. Comprised of many of the same musicians who famously toured with Bob Marley, The Original Wailers drew a full crowd as they brought us all back to the beginning of Reggae. While they covered many of the same Bob Marley songs as Stephen Marley did the day before, the performance did not feel repetitive. Instead, they felt more like two eulogists honoring the same friend. Where Stephen Marley strived the day before to channel his father’s passion and spirit, The Original Wailers worked to simulate the whole experience of the show.
Sunday was among many things, a day which heavily showcased some of Australia’s most talented musicians. Tash Sultana and Xavier Rudd both gave extended sets with dedicated audiences who took every opportunity to vocalize their excitement. The juxtaposition of these two musicians highlighted just how diverse of a musical pallet the continent down under has, and both musicians’ sets focused on a central theme that motivated their careers. Tash Sultana’s message largely promoted feminism and female empowerment, while Xavier Rudd’s music is prompted by his love for and dedication to his aboriginal heritage. Both shows, however, had one significant thing in common, a sincere and dedicated audience that encouraged the musicians to play with their full hearts.
From Oahu Hawaii, The Green had some surprises planned for their set. The upbeat island influenced band gave a show as high energy as could be and made it clear their ambition was to be one of the louder groups of the day. As the show began, lead Singer Caleb Keolanui walked onstage with a big smile that never left his face throughout his performance. Later, in a moment that came seemingly out of nowhere, Rebelution frontman and lead singer, Eric Rachmany came onstage to join The Green for a quick song. While it is always an exceptional experience to see a festival’s headliner give so much of themselves to the fans, his reason became apparent when observing the chemistry between himself and Keolanui. Hugging onstage like the old friends they are, their duet was a welcome reminder of the humanity of music, and that deviation from a pre-packaged and stale setlist is commonplace at Cali Roots.
One of the weekend’s most anticipated acts, Slightly Stoopid, pulled out almost all the stops to make their set a success. Confidently strutting onstage to open with “Devils Door.” The multi-instrumentalists, frontmen Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald switched guitar and bass throughout the set, much to the audience’s enjoyment. Around halfway through the set, the band honored Tom Petty with a cover his song “You Don’t Know How It Feels” covering the piece with as much heart as Petty himself would have put into it. In what came as a complete surprise to the crowd, and in keeping up with the theme this year of artists including other artists in their act, Alborosie joined the band onstage for a few bars during the song “If You Want It.” The band left the stage to roaring applause and was well received set despite the band’s glaring omissions of some of their most popular songs such as “Collie Man” or “2 am.”
The festival ended with a band, not a fizzle when 311 took the stage to close out the weekend. Lead singer Nick Hexum quickly whipped the audience up into a frenzy when he came onstage with a mic, screaming out a loud and elongated “Cali Rooots!” prompting a roaring cheer. The band closed out the festival with a setlist that missed nothing. Every hit was played, from “Amber” to “Beautiful Disaster” and everything in between. Aesthetically, the performance was breathtaking. The coordination of the lighting was impeccable and helped showcase the energy of the band. Ending the set with a passionate rendition of “Omaha Stylee” Hexum could not help but shout out to the local Golden State Warriors before the band joined hands to take one final bow. A fitting end to the incredible weekend.
As the show ended and we all began our journeys home from Monterey, a drum circle broke out in the concourse outside of The Bowl’s amphitheater. A perfect embodiment of the love and good vibes that had been spread throughout the weekend. With Cali Roots #9 officially over, there was just one thing on everyone’s mind; just what tricks will the festival have up its sleeves next year to celebrate the end of their first decade?