A sunny, warm day at Mariner’s Park was the setting of the first-ever Mission Bayfest in San Diego. An offshoot of the wildly successful original Bayfest, held at Waterfront in Downtown San Diego since 2019, this all-ages, one-day festival was an eclectic mix of mostly reggae, with the world-renowned sonic chameleons Thievery Corporation thrown in to shake things up. Dirty Heads and Bikini Trill joined San Diego natives Tribal Seeds and Through The Roots to complete the synergistic lineup. Set on the grass, touching the sandy shores of Mission Bay, the cool ocean breeze was a welcome respite from the sticky humidity.
The stage was a stone’s throw from the sail boats moored on the deep blue water.
Artist merchandise booths, food trucks and other vendors — including Razafari Apparel and a slew of San Diego vendors, hawking everything from candles to towels to handmade soap -– set up tents in a giant semi-circle opposite the stage, making meandering and meeting up with friends convenient and not overwhelming. Ample grass was available to set up blankets and umbrellas, and kids ran around screaming and playing tag or catch while their parents drank Kona Brewing Company beer and Uncle Ed’s Damn Good cocktails.
General Admission doors opened at 2pm and opening act, Los Angeles’ surf/pop/reggae quartet Bikini Trill, took the stage in the blazing sun at 3pm. Lead singer Lauren “LJ” Johnson belted their new single “Fucked Up”, while bassist Kourosh “Roach” Poursalehi served ultimate rockstar vibes in a pair of psychedelic hand-painted overalls.
Through The Roots followed and the crowd started to fill in and as they sang along with vocalist Evan Hawkins to tracks from TTR’s newest album — released August 26th, appropriately titled TTR.
San Diego’s legendary OG reggae outfit Tribal Seeds was next with their newly acquired lead singer, Hector Roots Lewis. A welcome addition to the Tribal roster, Hector danced his way through the set and charmed the crowd with his high-energy stage presence and charismatic smile.
Neon pinks and oranges painted the sky as the sun set over Mission Bay next.
The genre-less, ever-changing Thievery Corporation began their set with their 2017 track “Letter to the Editor”, featuring vocalist Racquel Jones. Followed by classics like “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes” and “Radio Retaliation”, longtime member Rob Myers strummed his iconic sitar perched atop a Persian rug as Lou Lou Ghelichkhani sweetly sang “Lebanese Blonde” beside him.
Dirty Heads closed out the night, with a ground-shaking 90 minute set, including their hit song “Island Glow” off this summer’s Midnite Control album for the very first time. The energy from the almost 10,000-person crowd was as goosebump-inducing as the laser and light show. Thanking San Diego for “being so awesome and welcoming”, frontmen Jared Watson and Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell exited the stage only to pop back on for another encore song before finally ending the night with a bang.
Photography by Allie Adams