Cali Roots Day Three arrived with a bang Saturday. Despite Rebelution’s blow-out 90-minute light show spectacular of a set the previous night, over 14,000 reggae lovers of all genres and walks of life lined up on Fairground Road and entered with newfound energy, fresh outfits and all the love in the world. The sun was out and the “mood was right”, as Iration says. Some kids played soccer near their parents’ picnic blankets in the grass. A baby sat on his father’s shoulders, looking wide-eyed at the commotion around them.
Saturday morning was chill — the calm before the storm.
Opening up the Bowl Stage, San Diego-based Sensi Trails, who kicked off the day with a taste of their own surf reggae riffs while the surprisingly large crowd gently swayed to the mellow beats. Up-and-coming Hawaiian artist FIA then opened the Bowl Stage, bringing his captivating harmonies and creamy tenor.
Beantown’s finest, The Elovaters, followed immediately after on the Bowl Stage, playing tracks like “Margaritas” and “Gardenia” from their praised summer 2021 album, Castles. The entire crowd sang along to frontman Jackson Wetherbee’s sweet melodies and it’s safe to say The Elovaters not only wowed, but made many a new fan that Memorial Day Weekend.
Back on the Cali Roots Stage, Arise Roots crushed their high-energy set in just enough time to head back to the Bowl for Bumpin’ Uglies. French dub/reggae seven-piece Dub Inc. brought their je ne sais quoi and the entire Cali Roots Stage audience pulsated to their international brand of social justice via music.
International reggae sensation-turned-pizza delivery man (…?) Collie Buddz did it again.
Just like in 2019, the “Blind To You” crooner brought 1,000 Domino’s pizzas and tasked everyone — from Marley D. Williams of Rebelution to his own manager — with passing them out to the hungry crowd. Full of pizza and smiles, everyone’s attention shifted to the Bowl Stage, where lead singer Nathan Feinstein of Iya Terra reminisced about the times he and the rest of the band used to play outside Cali Roots, dreaming of the day they would play an actual set on a real stage inside. It’s a well-known fact that Cali Roots makes dreams come true.
And, many festival-goers’ dreams came true when Trevor Hall stepped on the Cali Roots Stage. Guitar in his hand and wisdom from his mouth, the In And Through The Body mastermind sang songs off his 2021 release and reminded us that “all we have is now”. Across the fairgrounds, Hawaiian reggae icons The Green blessed the Cali Roots Stage, right before the mass exodus to the Bowl Stage for everyone’s favorite dog, Cocoa… I mean band, Stick Figure.
Tribal Seeds, featuring their new vocalist Hector Roots Lewis, closed out the Cali Roots Stage next with their live version of the seminal hit “Vampire”: a collective rendition affectionately coined “The Vampire Brodeo”, which includes any artist that happens to be close by at the time and knows the song.
The audience lost their minds for five whole minutes and the entire stage vibrated to the sound of a thousand voices.
The moon rose over the Bowl Stage as the last set of the night began and Slightly Stoopid, San Diego’s reggae rock legends, took the stage to close out the busiest single day Cali Roots has ever seen. After playing early favorites like “2am” and newer releases like “Everyday People”, MC Otis Otes closed the night as festival-goers wearily trudged towards the gates. A faint anticipation hung in the air, hinting that the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for the final day’s gallery, coming soon!
Photography by Sean McCracken; Recap by Allie Adams