About This Festival
What’s in a Name?
This festival owes its name to its founder, Jeff Monser, whose clothing line is also called California Roots. The clothes company came first and then in 2010, Monser started this fest as a way to bring people together for good music in a cool spot. (The Monterey Fairgrounds is where the groundbreaking Monterey International Pop Music Festival happened in 1967, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, and the Who.)
That first year drew 1,700 people, and every year since, the event has doubled its attendance. In 2014, organizers added an outdoor arena at the Fairgrounds (called the Bowl) to the original stages, upping the event’s capacity to 11,000 people per day. Other recent upgrades include free live streaming, larger stages, and fancier lounges. As Dan Sheehan, one of the event’s organizers, puts it: “What started as a backyard party is now one of the fastest growing festivals of its size.”
In a larger sense, California Roots takes inspiration from that massive musical explosion and shift in consciousness synonymous with late-1960s California counterculture. Check out the event’s psychedelic posters, for one.) But don’t be fooled by the name: It’s not all about California bands, nor is it just about roots reggae. It is, however, about quintessential California living—and dreaming: Imagine a laid-back experience with sunshine (if it’s not foggy), smiles, and good vibes.
Here, you’re likely to encounter Damian and Ziggy Marley, SOJA, 311, Rebelution, Steel Pulse, Tribal Seeds, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Groundation, and many more. The goal is to offer rising-star bands alongside the headliner acts that are going to get you through the gates.
Keeping It Green
Cali Roots brings in the Offset Project to work toward a zero-waste experience. Vendors use only foodware that’s compostable or recyclable, and volunteers help you separate your waste. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own bottles, since no one sells bottled water (a partnership with Kleen Kanteen makes sure you won’t get parched). Refill at the purified-water stations scattered throughout the grounds or partake in the pint program: Buy a refillable glass for discounts on beer, or bring one from a previous year’s fest.
Little Roots Lovers
Bring the kids! Strollers and wagons are allowed on the grounds and there’s an art area with easels set up for children who want to paint—or get their face painted. If toward the end of the day, kids get tired but don’t want to miss the action, head to the After Dark Lounge, an impromptu setup right in front of the Cali Roots stage. There, you can hang out and watch the music on big LED screens.