The 10th annual California Roots Music & Arts Festival (Cali Roots) took over the Monterey County Fairgrounds for a magical, elevating and powerful Memorial Day weekend. With musical headliners Stick Figure and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals on Friday night, Dirty Heads and Slightly Stoopid on Saturday night and Rebelution and UB40, scheduled to wrap up Sunday’s festivities, the milestone celebration was a multi-sensual experience.
For those who think the festival is all bout self-indulgence, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Cali Roots continues to celebrate Mother’s Day long after the holiday in a big way, as its greening and sustainable practices are promoted and intertwined throughout the festival. Whether it be 2,400 redwoods planted based on VIP ticket sales, a stainless steel collectible cup or its several waste diversion programs, Cali Roots is dedicated to reducing everyone’s impact on the environment.
Of course one would believe the music is what this festival is all about, yet, after attending my fourth year, I can attest that yes the music is core but every other unique experience allows one to encounter the “whole enchilada”—red, green, cheese, vegan, whatever.
Along with a live-streaming stage, there were pop-up performances and interactive art activities sprinkled throughout the venue. How fun is it to find out that Hirie is performing in the Art Retreat while walking towards the area, or noticing that the carved wood mandala you just purchased is similar to the dangling decoration from the fashion zone area? The answer is very!
However, shifting back and forth between the smaller outdoor Cali Roots stage and the massive stadium-like Bowl Stage is where most fans found their happy place. While many believe Cali Roots is only for classic reggae lovers, it’s not.
Reggae roots style performers from Jamaica, such as Don Carlos, Steel Pulse, Alborosie and Protoje graced the stages, alongside Cali roots, ska and reggae artists, such as Soja, Stick Figure and Dirty Heads. International performers from Australia (Tash Sultana and Ocean Alley), Argentina (Dread Mar I) and Guam (For Peace Band) blessed us with their own talented styles as well. The islanders, hip-hoppers and reggae/alternative rockers such as Pepper, Xiuhtezcatl, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Green, Fiji, Cypress Hill and Common Kings brought an especially energetic and uplifting group of performances to the festival as well.
While Cali Roots has its limitations within the reggae genre’s many branches, the overall growth the festival has been able to accomplish over the last decade is something worthy of celebration. With its greening initiatives and special guests added to the rotating lineup each year, the familiar faces become a community where personal projects and art come together beyond the stage.
Following an electric performance on Sunday afternoon, 19-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez graciously sat down to give us a few words on his world views as an artist and indigenous environmental activist. When he isn’t performing on a stage, Martinez works as a youth director for Earth Guardians, an international organization aimed at training youth to be “effective leaders in the environmental, climate and social justice movements across the globe.”
“My mom says that if you want to change the world you’ve got to change the education system,” said Martinez. “And so with Earth Guardians we’re able to implement curriculums in schools all across the country as a part of the momentum.”
That momentum has brought Martinez the opportunity to work with another famous environmentalist—Leonardo DiCaprio. Together, the two will be starting a company and application aimed at funneling the financial support of the public into carbon segregation projects.
“To discontinue the burning of fossil fuels is not going to be enough to address climate change because all of the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere,” explained Martinez. “So, it’s really necessary to put it back in the soil, putting it back in plants, cow farming, solar mediation—it’s going to plug in a super sexy easy interface-able front-end so that any individual can purchase through them.”
While this project is still yet to be announced to the general public, the visionary impact Xiuhtezcatl plans to achieve with his art and activism lies along the same route Cali Roots is likely to find itself in the next decade. As Xiuhtezcatl mentions, time is crucial when it comes to environmental issues and Cali Roots is poised to take its efforts into a whole new level of sustainability, with the power of music fueling the masses.
For more information on the California Roots Music & Arts Festival, visit CaliforniaRootsFestival.com.
For more information on Earth Guardians and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s future efforts, visit EarthGuardians.org/Xiuhtezcatl.
Photo by Josué Rivas