Published on June 2nd, 2015 | by gatsbyadmin0
California Roots Music & Arts Festival 2015
This past Friday Adam Ill and I set out for our first experience at the California Roots Music & Arts Festival in Monterey, California and from the moment the trip started, it seemed as if our dread-locked and bare-foot fairy godmother had waved her magical joint over the entire weekend. Although our first meeting wasn’t until 6 that evening, the festival had actually begun that morning. So we set out early anticipating the inevitable traffic during Memorial Day weekend – or so we thought. For once, the 101 was clear the entire way, leading us to arrive at our hotel (which happened to be within walking distance to the Monterey Fairgrounds where the festival was being held) ahead of our scheduled time. Surprisingly, they allowed us to check-in early without question, further confirming my suspicions that this weekend held great things in store for us.
Although we arrived in Monterey in good time, we were both eager to get the festival and check everything out before the real work began. During our 9 years together, Adam (who you may be familiar with from his show “Getting High With”, Cannabis Cups or The Secret Sesh) and I have worked together or alongside each other several times but had never actually collaborated on coverage of an event. With both of us attending our first ever Cali Roots Fest at the same time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a little cross-over coverage for Grimey Gatsby and brealtv.
As we walked over to the media check-in gate, we discussed our schedule for the first day, strategizing and planning how we would work out the interviews and coverage of different bands. Truthfully, there was a small (and I’ll admit, slightly selfish) reason I was glad we had decided to work together this time. As someone who is at best shy – and at worst completely awkward – when meeting new people, I was somewhat relieved to know that although I had done the research and prepared the questions, Adam would be taking over the actual interviewing duties. Orchestrating an interesting conversation and keeping your interview from being the same static questions that artists have undoubtedly heard many times before is an art form and he makes it look much easier than it really is. Once there, we met up with breal.tv photographer Diego Olivares and his sister, Karina, who was acting as his assistant for the weekend. (As far as I was concerned, they were my own personal saviors; nobody wants me handling a camera unless they want footage of their feet).
Since I was particularly intimidated and awe-struck by the the work and long list of credits and accomplishments of the first artist we were scheduled to interview (without reason as he was incredibly kind and gracious), I was especially glad that he would be taking on this part of our coverage. First on our list was E.N. Young, an artist, writer and producer who was setting a new precedent at the Cali Roots Fest by performing three times this weekend on all three stages. In the past 5 years alone he has released two solo albums (his just released sophomore album, ‘Live Love Stay Up is available in original, acoustic and dub versions), produced ‘Soundwaves’ for Tribal Seeds before touring with them and ultimately joining the band and opening his own studio, Imperial Sound Recording Studio in San Diego, California. See his interview below to find out how he continues to fulfill his goal “to travel the world spreading good through music and inspiring others.”
If there really was someone watching over us this weekend, they manifested themselves in the form of Dan Kelly, lead singer of Fortunate Youth. Our fairy godmother incarnate or rather, godfather (he really was like the godfather of the event; everyone knew and loved him) turned up during our interview with E.N. Young and was our self-appointed guide for our first experience at Cali Roots. Having attended the festival every year since it was formed, Dan was the most entertaining and informative of unofficial hosts as he showed us the ropes throughout the entire weekend. This included the most thorough tour of the grounds, a private sesh with the Fortunate Youth crew at the campground and the best place to get food (if you’re ever in Hermosa Beach, check out Silvio’s Brazilian BBQ. Monster fries with pulled pork and coleslaw… pure heaven).
The good times continued as we ended our night with Dan by watching the performance of the day one headliner, SOJA. Aside from the fact that they’re an amazing band (with a Grammy nomination for their ‘Amid the Noise and Haste’ album in 2014 to prove it) and that they’ve been given a lot of credit for bringing reggae into the mainstream – two pretty big “asides” – there was a moment during the performance that made me feel the love for them in a major way. During their set, they pulled Ocean Pleasant, a 17-year old aspiring artist (and daughter of the festival’s yoga instructor), on stage with them and had her perform one of her original songs with them. It was one of those moments that just give you goosebumps and not only because the girl could really sing; it completely embodied the loving and uplifting spirit of the festival perfectly within the space of time it took to perform a single song.
Day two of the festival dawned chilly and with a little drizzle but rather than putting a damper on things, it only served to keep us cool during a day of great interviews and performances. First up on our schedule was Ethan Tucker, a mid-twenties singer and guitarist who is currently making a name for himself with his unique blend of acoustic soul, blues and reggae. Having been raised by a family where one half of them hailed from the land of “We Say and Do Whatever the Fuck We’re Feeling” (Brooklyn, NY for those of you who have never heard of it), I’ve always had a healthy amount of respect for those who have the guts to, well, say and do whatever the fuck they’re feeling. So it came as no surprise when I took an immediate liking to Tucker who infamously showed up with his guitar strapped to his back and performed as an unannounced and uninvited opening act at a 2010 Steve Miller concert.
Next, at Dan’s suggestion, we headed over to the original stage where another performance was already underway. It was a band that I had heard good things about but never listened to; however, by the end of the performance, The Skints had already made me a fan. Originally from London, UK, The Skints’ music is a blend of reggae, ska, dub, punk and hip-hop, a sound which they’ve personally dubbed “East London Reggae.” At the first opportunity – internet service was hard to come by – I looked them up and wasn’t surprised to find that they’re one of the hardest-touring bands around (averaging 150 shows per year, three years in a row). Made sense to me; why wouldn’t you want to tour and play live when you’re so easily able to convert an audience into fans? Although this was the first time I had heard them, they had me dancing throughout their entire set and, if you’re not already familiar with them, I would say that they are most definitely worth checking out.
After The Skints finished up we made our way back to the media lounge to catch up with someone it was impossible to miss. Sporting his trademark tousled blonde locks, Dustin Bushnell (better known as Duddy B) of The Dirty Heads was up next on our interview list. I must say, from what I know of the band and their music, I was already expecting this to be a fun and entertaining conversation and Duddy B did not disappoint – and neither did the set they played later that day as it was one of my favorites in a weekend full of epic performances.
Next up on interviews were none other than Dan, Travis and Greg of Fortunate Youth. I first had the pleasure of meeting and hearing them live a few months back at the House of Blues on Sunset and this weekend solidified my high opinion of not only their music but of the band members personally as well. Although their music is seriously great, the guys don’t take themselves seriously and I had an amazing time hanging out with them throughout the festival as they are nothing short of hilarious.
Toward the end of the second day, we were so tired that we briefly considered heading back to the hotel early… That is, until we came to our senses and realized there was no damn way we were going to miss a performance by The Roots, who we regularly watch every night as we tune in to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And it was a good thing we stayed; the drum set from Questlove and Frank Knuckles alone was worth losing an hour or two of sleep, not to mention the rest of the performance. Once it was over I was I was feeling anything but sleepy and it was difficult for me to not dance the entire half mile walk back to our room.
On Sunday, the third and final day of Cali Roots, I woke up and immediately felt a sense of anticipation. We had purposely kept our interviews scheduled for the first two days since Fortunate Youth, Cypress Hill and Slightly Stoopid were all slated to perform on Sunday and both Adam and myself refused to miss any of them. It turned out that the excitement I had felt upon waking was well justified and, looking back, that day is probably one that I’ll remember and talk about for the rest of my life.
As I’m sure you can tell by now, Adam and I are huge fans (both musically and personally) of Fortunate Youth and since they were on at “high noon” at The Bowl stage (the largest in the venue), we skipped breakfast and rushed over to see the guys before they went on. We ended up catching up with them backstage right before their set and, as if we weren’t excited enough, they informed us that we would be watching the performance from the stage. Now, it’s not as if I’ve never done this before, but I have to say that this was kind of amazing. From my experience, there just aren’t as many people present at festivals earlier in the day, meaning that there’s typically a smaller crowd. Not so for Fortunate Youth. The entire Bowl was full of dedicated fans waving Fortunate Youth towels before noon even hit and since these guys really give everything they’ve got to their audience, it was incredibly satisfying to see their fans giving all that love (and then some) back to them with their energy.
Still on a high from the Fortunate Youth performance, Adam and I all but ran back to the hotel (to pick up a special little surprise) where we ran into the Cypress Hill crew. After hanging out at the hotel for a quick sesh, we were invited to drive back over to the fairgrounds with them and, once everyone was settled in the dressing room, decided to make a quick trip to the media lounge to catch up with Diego and Karina. You can imagine what chaos ensued there when we turned up with B-Real. Not even the most seasoned of the media or festival personnel that were there could hide their excitement and even though things got a little hectic, he was the epitome of graciousness as he spoke to everyone and posed for photos. Turns out we were in the right place at the right time because, in the midst of the media frenzy, we were able to set up a little un-scheduled interview with none other than Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid, the headliner of the day three.
Once back in the dressing room, I received another huge shock. The “little surprise” we had gone to pick up earlier was actually a custom double barrel shotgun blunt; filled with dank goodness from Nature’s Lab, outfitted with two Phuncky Feel Tips (as the “double barrel), it was made by @Weavers_ specifically for the Cypress Hill performance. While we were under the impression that we would just be delivering it, apparently that was not to be the case. Once again we were invited to be on-stage during the set… where Adam was personally called out to bring the blunt to B-Real during a specific song. And so it was that I found myself at stage left, geeking the fuck out (hopefully not too obviously), as Cypress Hill performed at Cali Roots. It was pretty surreal when I considered that I used to listen to “What’s Your Number?” on repeat as I was getting ready to go out (get off me, I was in high school and just entering the stage where I could relate to songs like “Hits from the Bong”) and now I was getting to see them live, and from the stage, no less. Despite the fact that I was totally immersed in the performance and the ridiculous energy coming from both the stage and audience, more than once I had to just stop and think, “Holy shit. This is my life right now.”
After Cypress Hill finished up, we made our way back to the dressing room to await Slightly Stoopid and lo and behold, a short while later were whisked back up to the stage. As we watched and danced our way to the end when Cypress Hill joined Slightly Stoopid for the song that would close out the night, I found myself thinking back over the entire weekend and had to pinch myself a few times. From the time I found out that I would be attending I knew that I was in for a great time, but the actuality of the experience was inconceivable. This may have been the sixth year the festival took place and I may have been a little late to the party… but I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t have the best first experience at The California Roots Music and Arts festival ever.
For more exclusive footage, head over to the breal.tv youtube page.
Written By Danielle Erin
Interviews By Adam Ill
Photography By Diego Olivares