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Virginia-based reggae band SOJA headlines the Sunday bill at the third California Roots Music & Arts Festival this weekend at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.

In its third year of existence, The California Roots Music & Arts Festival is establishing itself as a premium destination for American reggae acts and fans.

Taking place Saturday and Sunday at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, this year's event features national touring acts like SOJA, Pepper, The Green, The Expendables, J Boog, Passafire and more.

The festival will also host an afterparty following each day of the festival. Saturday's afterparty features the Berkeley-based hip-hop/indie-pop duo Cataracs.

The band produced the hit song "Like A G6" with Far East Movement and Dev. That afterparty takes place Saturday night at the King City Room inside the Fairgrounds. Tickets are $30 for the all-ages event.

Information can be found at www.Cal-Roots.com.

Founder Jeff Monser has worked hard to build the festival into a destination for fans of what he terms "underground surf-roots music."

"I'm grateful to be able to bring quality entertainment to the Peninsula that has both a positive vibe and brings a true sense of community," said Monser, who also owns Monser Designs. "Boosting tourism and local revenue in a jaded economy couldn't feel any better, and the way we've organically grown a solid family-like team over the past years, the festival is only becoming more established and more reputable as the years go."

Virginia-based reggae band SOJA headlines the Sunday bill.


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The band released its latest album "Strength To Survive" in January.

During its rise, the record reached the top of the iTunes Reggae chart.

Singer/guitarist and founding member Jacob Hempbill said the festival represented a marked progress for American reggae bands on the touring circuit.

"When we started playing festivals in California years ago, the American reggae bands would be the opening acts," said Hempbill. "Nobody would dream of putting them in the headlining spot.

He referenced the festival's other headlining acts, fellow American reggae bands like The Green and Pepper, as proof of the positive development within the genre.

"To me, it's really cool to see American reggae being put at the top," he said. "We respect the festival for doing that."

Hempbill started the band with bassist and grade school pal Bobby Lee in the late '90s.

At the time, very few American reggae bands had established a national presence. There was also no digital music distribution to help gain fans.

"There were no American reggae bands. There was John Brown's Body, but we never really heard of them," said Hempbill. "And there was Sublime, but we never really heard of them except on the radio. We didn't really listen to them. I couldn't name three Sublime songs. I love the band, but that's not my thing."

The band was influenced by the sound of Jamaican reggae. It's remained true to that allegiance, with plenty of positive results.

SOJA has released three albums and sold more than 200,000 units. The band has headlined large theaters in more then 15 countries around the world.

The band is in the midst of a national tour that will take them across both coasts. They will share stages with the likes of Steel Pulse, Questlove of The Roots, The Dave Matthews Band, 311 and Slightly Stoopid.

"Strength To Survive" follows previous albums that have been written with a thematic thread.

Their debut "Peace In A Time Of War" spoke about U.S. involvement in wars all over the world. "Born In Babylon" focused on the contributions someone from a First World country can make given a world perspective.

"Strength To Survive" is giving the previous album's theme an even broader view.

"It's got us looking at the world as kind of one in the same, and saying that the boundaries that we put in between our countries and the religions and all of humanity are a fiction, things we make up ourselves," Hempbill said. "As long as we compete in that way, we're headed for the destruction of the human race. That's the strength to survive."

Follow Marcos Cabrera on Twitter at @MarcosACabrera. He can be reached at mcabrera@montereyherald.com. GO!


ROOTS FESTIVAL
·What: The California Roots Festival
·Where: The Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey
·When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat-Sun, May 26-27
·Tickets: $45 day pass, $70 weekend pass
·Information: www.cali-roots.com