Click photo to enlarge
311 performs Sunday at the California Roots Festival.

MONTEREY >> It's a brand new day for the California Roots Music & Arts Festival. In its fifth year, the affectionately called Cali Roots Fest reaches full maturation as one of the world's largest and most recognized reggae rock festivals.

The Friday-through-Sunday Memorial Day weekend event is held at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center.

"Our dream has been to expand to the arena main stage, where Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire while performing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival," festival co-founder Dan Sheehan said in a news release. "We want to give the main stage artists and headliners a piece of that history, and with current projections on sales, it looks as if we will have another sold-out festival and packed arena for those artists. It's a shared dream come true for both the artists and myself."

The projection of a sold-out house has come true for Saturday and Sunday, with several hundred tickets still available for Friday. With an exciting lineup of 48 performers, it's no wonder the crowds have swelled to include 10,000 people per day. The reggae rock fusion styles will be spread out on three stages.

Leading the lineup are big name artists Damian and Ziggy Marley, sons of legendary reggae star Bob Marley; Billboard's No. 1 selling reggae band Rebelution; triple platinum album artists 311; legends Steel Pulse; and SOJA, a band with a Grateful Dead-like fan base. (Steel Pulse and SOJA are playing Friday.) The festival also includes fan favorites such as Pepper, B-Side Players, Katchafire, Iration, The Green, Zion I, Alborosie, Groundation and Passafire.


Drawn to this festival are the original bohemians and the next generation or two of young adults who embrace the individualism and freedom that the reggae-rock genre not only supports, but spreads. All ages are welcome.

"We are elated to be a part of this movement," said Sheehan. "We think of this more as a three-day safe haven, where families and music lovers can come, relax, throw down some blankets and simply be themselves, without judgment, while embracing unity and friendship — both new and old."

The festival recently formed a partnership with Laguna Seca Recreation Area for tent and RV campers and added shuttle service to and from off-site campgrounds and the Monterey Peninsula College parking lot.

"We now have all of the elements for an all-inclusive festival experience," Sheehan said. "... We are proud to be able to provide fans with everything they need to be comfortable and enjoy themselves."

In an effort to provide green options for attendees, there is a bike valet service and ride share board online at the festival website, Vendors are assisted to provide compostable and recyclable serving materials, and the festival is providing zero-waste stations, with someone there to educate people how to separate waste into multiple-use bins.

Other activities include yoga classes offered Saturday and Sunday, and an After Dark Lounge where festival-goers can enjoy live painting, flame dancing and tea service while watching a live stream from The Bowl Stage (arena). Information about what is allowed and what is not is listed on the website under FAQs.

Appearing Sunday at 7:40 p.m. in The Bowl will be 311, a fusion reggae/rock/hip-hop/funk band originally out of Omaha, Nebraska. The five-member band now resides in Los Angeles.

Formed in 1990, 311 features original music collaboratively created by vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, vocalist/DJ S.A. Martinez, lead guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut. On tour in support of its 11th studio recording, "Stereolithic," 311 most certainly will be one of the highlights of the festival with its crowd-pleasing, upbeat music.

The new album was recorded with longtime collaborator/producer Scott Ralston, best known for his work on some of the band's most popular releases, including 1993's gold-selling "Music," 1995's triple-platinum selling "311," 1997's platinum-selling "Transistor" and 1999's gold-selling "Soundsystem."

Mixed by Ralston and 311 drummer Sexton, the 15-song recording was released independently and distributed/marketed through INgrooves/INresidence. This is the group's first truly indie recording since it was an unsigned band in Omaha.

Longtime fans of the band will vibrate to the group's familiar sounds, but will also find the guys mixing it up with some fresh songs they were stoked to produce.

"I stay excited about new frontiers in music, and there are always new things to try and new styles to explore," Hexum said when the album was released in March. "It's a big step forward, and songs like 'Friday Afternoon,' 'Made in the Shade' and 'Tranquility' are all getting into new territory. I wanted to make sure we were covering new ground, and I think we definitely achieved that."

Power chords and explosive drumming dynamics punctuate the songs that express modern concerns and evocative personal subjects. 311's musical style was innovative at its start, but has since become mainstream with a number of bands taking up the intense yet funky rhythmic approach, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Rage Against The Machine, Pepper and Slightly Stoopid, to name a few.

Music at the Cali Roots Fest will be varied, veering between the trance-inducing reggae lilt of Steel Pulse and the hard-edged, rap-infused style that numerous groups like 311 employ.

Beth Peerless is a Herald correspondent.

If you go

What: California Roots Music & Arts Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Sunday, May 23-25

Where: Monterey County Fair and Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey

Tickets: $65 for Friday; Saturday and Sunday sold out