The One Love Cali Reggae Fest vibe was strong this year, as thrilled festival-goers packed the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach to experience yet another three-day ear-gasm of their favorite roots, rock, reggae and punky ska bands presented by Goldenvoice. While the sun shone brightly for most of the weekend, in true One Love fashion, the rain and wind snuck in on Day Three; clearly, it did not dampen the fun! Fans came from all over the country to experience the music and community that is One Love Cali Reggae Festival. Fans could enjoy music on three different stages this year — up one stage from previous years — allowing 10-11 more fabulous bands a day!
Sunny blue skies and beautiful glistening ocean waters around the majestic Queen Mary shipliner set the backdrop for the weekend, as hyped fans entered Day One of the festival in droves. All were immediately greeted by the smooth, mellow surf reggae-rock sounds of Huntington Beach locals Cali Conscious at the Tiki Stage. The environmentally-conscious band entertained fans first as Hermosa-based badasses, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, kicked off the fun at the Roots & Culture Stage across the grounds. SMKFLWR was back this year to host the entertainment on the Main Stage, bringing the early party with fan-favorites out of Phoenix, Katastro.
Fans came from all over the country to experience the music and community that is One Love Cali Reggae Festival.
If you weren’t busy going between stages to catch your favorite bands, you were in line for any number of yummy food vendors on site. Or, perhaps you were grabbing your One Love merch or some from your favorite band, or even better… accidentally bumping into your favorite performer and grabbing a selfie! Many of the artists were out supporting their merchandise or wandering the grounds enjoying themselves, as well. You couldn’t miss Kurtis “Conga Kurty” Parsons, as he shuttled his congas from stage to stage in his red wagon, performing full sets with the likes of HIRIE, Tunnel Vision, Eli-Mac, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, Kyle Smith, Tribal Seeds, Mike Pinto and Slightly Stoopid. Bret Bollinger (of Pepper), Patty Salmon (of Tomorrows Bad Seeds) along with bass player Andre Davis, were at the Bollinger tent as they promoted their side project Bret Bollinger and The Bad Habits.
A highlight of the weekend was the presence of The Nowell Family Foundation. Inspired by the loss of their son Bradley (of Sublime), the Nowell family has created a nonprofit to support those in the music industry who need assistance in recovering from opioid addiction. The Nowell Family — including Bradley’s sister Kellie and his father “Papa Nowell” — were at One Love to raise awareness and funds to build a six-bed recovery center to provide services to individuals in the music industry, no matter their financial position. Pepper also threw a killer afterparty on Friday night at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach to support The Nowell family’s dream. Stay tuned for that review and additional interview with Kellie!
The Tiki Stage continued to entertain Day One with performances by Cafe Con Tequila out of LA, captivating fans with their unique Latin-ska sound before reggae-soul group Thrive took over! Killing it on the Roots & Culture Stage were terrific performances by crowd favorites, like Josh Heinrichs & Skillinjah, Matisyahu and Collie Buddz. Bringing east coast vibes to the party on the SMKFLWR stage was rock/pop/punk/reggae great Ballyhoo!, followed by another fantastic band, Pacific Dub.
As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, a chill began to settle in, forcing fans to bundle up and make their way through the beautifully decorated One Love tunnel. Fans soaked in messages of “One Love” and a gorgeous lions head as they went to the Tiki Stage to see Long Beach locals 4th & Orange bring a solid performance with their new music. Or, to the Roots & Culture Stage you went to get down with the unique blend of reggae and punk that is The Expendables. The SMKFLWR stage had the roof blown off by the Pepper boy, as a packed crowd gathered at the Tiki Stage to celebrate the One Love return of Ventura local Kyle Smith alongside his talented band members.
With 31 solid bands on the lineup, fans rushed through the gates to make it to their planned sets for the day.
Kicking the party up a notch next on the Roots & Culture Stage with her Jamaican dancehall was Sister Nancy. In proper party fashion, the frantic fun of Pepper set was followed by hip hop legendary duo Atmosphere, making another high-energy One Love Cali Fest appearance. Rounding out the night on the Tiki Stage were more Long Beach locals, LAW, followed by Floridian reggae favorites Kash’d Out before Mike Pinto’s distinctly unique jams closed the stage down. It was an authentic tribute to the roots of the genre, as pure roots reggae phenomenal artists like The Abyssinians, Don Carlos and Steel Pulse closed down the Roots & Culture Stage. With the moon hanging out over the Queen Mary, there could be no better ending to Day One of One Love Cali Reggae Fest than with smoking sets from Sublime with Rome and Dirty Heads.
Packed shuttle busses of excited fans flooded the Queen Mary Events Park once again for Day Two of the festival on Saturday, February 8th. You couldn’t help but bump into familiar faces from the day before, while plenty of fresh new faces arrived! With 31 solid bands on the lineup, fans rushed through the gates to make it to their planned sets for the day. Kicking off the afternoon on the Tiki Stage was the Low Budget out of Newport Beach. While along the water, Bumpin Uglies brought east coast vibes to the Roots & Culture Stage. The Expanders, a roots-rock-reggae band from LA, started the party on the SMKFLWR Stage.
Fans continued to enjoy the beautiful California sunshine, donning shorts and bikini tops as they shopped, enjoyed music and met up with friends to grab a bite to eat before catching the next set. You could spot Yesod Williams (of Pepper) chilling in the VIP area with fans at the Roots & Culture Stage. A fun crowd gathered around the Tiki Stage to catch Of Good Nature around that time. The funky rock reggae band out of North Carolina followed by the unique Latin sounds of Blanco Y Negro and Fayuca. Fans flocked to the Roots & Culture Stage to catch the quickly rising Arise Roots and traditional roots of Iya Terra, who was hot off their 2019 tour. All this followed by The Movement, who brought their alternative reggae sounds to the day.
Continuing the afternoon full of good vibes on the SMKFLWR Stage were fan favorites Through The Roots, Passafire and Long Beach Dub Allstars, who paid tribute to Bradley Nowell. The devastating loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the many others involved in the crash a few short weeks before was not lost during the occasion either. Fans and band members were seen representing the number 24 everywhere. Attendees were always in motion moving from stage to stage, either making their way to the front of the stage or just the outskirts to hear the sounds of bands before heading off to catch the next set. As the warm California sun sank into the ocean again, Roots of Mine, Seranation, and The Elovators kept fans grooving at the Tiki Stage. At the same time, others communed at the Roots & Culture Stage to catch the insane sets of HIRIE, Alborosie and Half Pint. Meanwhile, the soulful Trevor Hall, the high energy of Fortunate Youth and Tribal Seeds kept the crowd dancing on the SMKFLWR Stage.
As the chill of the night progressed, the amazing talent on all three stages heated it back up! The strong classic roots reggae sounds of San Diego-based One Drop and Trinidadian reggae performer Marlon Asher graced the Tiki Stage. Jamaican songstress Etana and Rastafarian influenced Mighty Diamonds finished off the night with collectively amazing sets, reminding us all why we are drawn to this One Love Festival in the first place. Continuing with the roots vibe were legendary groups Black Uhuru, The Wailing Souls and The Original Wailers. Kicking it up a few notches was GRAMMY-nominated SOJA, Stick Figure and One Love alumni Rebelution, who all brought the night to a fantastic end.
With a packed agenda of 28 bands to see, the wind, rain and cold didn’t stop the masses.
Gone was the sun, but not the fun, as soggy fans entered the Queen Mary Events Park for Day Three of One Love. Seas of ponchos and raincoats could be seen far and wide, as children jumped in puddles. Parents strapped to babies tucked them under their ponchos and continued to dance the day away. With a packed agenda of 28 bands to see, the wind, rain and cold didn’t stop the masses. It surely didn’t stop the performing groups from delivering a day of first-rate music. Getting the party started on the Tiki Stage was Guamanian acts The John Dank Show and Jason J, showcasing his sick alternative reggae beats. Next up was Ital Vibes, bringing back Dread Kennedy (who also performed with Skillinjah) to the stage for a ripping performance as the rain came down.
The strong and fierce Leilani Wolfgramm kicked off the final day’s celebration on the SMKFLWR Stage, followed by the enchanting island music of Anuhea and One Love returning artist Sammy Johnson. Meanwhile, on the Roots & Culture Stage, Natural Vibrations (better known by Natty Vibes) continued with the Hawaiian island, rock pop-influenced reggae sounds. Singer/songwriter Landon McNamara returned to the One Love next, sharing with fans his love of music. Next up, sharing his message-based music, was the inspiring Mike Love. The rager continued as GRAMMY-nominated Common Kings took centerstage, followed by the sweet smooth island sounds of J Boog. Iration kept the crowd dancing through the wind and rain next.
Back on the Tiki Stage, former American Idol contestant Eli-Mac led a fiery set amidst the rain, once again reminding us the strong presence of the women in our reggae musical family. Celebrating the recent release of Queendom, Analea Brown was up next, entertaining the massive crowd that was forming. Hawaiian singer-songwriter Fia continued repping the strong force of women on the bill, before fans packed the Roots & Culture Stage to catch a glimpse of New Zealand roots reggae great, Katchafire. Continuing with the island vibes was The Green followed by famed leader of dub music, Lee “Scratch” Perry. Resuming the fun on the packed Tiki Stage, Cali local Bo Napoleon shared his impressive singer-songwriter abilities and love for the island influence. The powerful Nattali Rize took to the Tiki Stage next, followed by Inna Vision, sharing their message of love. Finishing off the night on the Tiki Stage with more roots reggae beats were reggae legends Pato Banton and The Gladiators.
Through the wind and cold, renowned Jamaican dancehall and reggae deejay Yellowman kept the crowd dancing and singing on the Roots & Culture Stage. While second-generation Jamaican reggae singer Tarrus Riley and world-renowned Third World completed the night. To finish off a beautiful weekend of music, love and unity, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Slightly Stoopid performed unforgettable sets under a looming full moon, making the wait in the wind, rain and bone-chilling cold well worth it! Be on the lookout for our daily gallery of photos and reviews, as well as intimate interviews with some of your favorite One Love bands!
Photography by Sean McCracken