To say the least, One Love Cali Reggae Fest was quite the successful weekend. A first trip to Long Beach to see a wickedly stacked weekend filled with the best in reggae and a lot of my personal favorite bands. Orange County Observatory transformed The Queen Mary’s luscious lawn into a playground of only good vibes for three full days. Friday kicked off my first LBC and reggae festival experience ironically, with lots of rain. Serious shout out to the dudes passing out free ponchos to the hundreds waiting in line to enter (saved the day!). The beautiful HIRIE and band kept us grooving in the rain, warming up our souls with positive messages and light hearted instrumentation. With so many amazing performers on the schedule, it was difficult to choose between the two stages sometimes, but overall no matter where you ended up, good vibes and music abounded. Fortunate Youth delivered a solid set with tons of new bangers from their latest self titled album that happened to be released the day of the show. Stick Figure brought the energy with their improvisational interludes and the cutest stage mascot ever…Cocoa The Tour Dog, a rescued Australian Shepherd that lit the stage up as the band brought their positive tunes to life. HIRIE and horns joined the band for a playful rastafarian cover and ode to Cocoa the dog of 4 Non Blondes “What’s up.”
We got the first bit of Punk Ska fusion legends Fishbone’s epic set before heading to see SOJA. Soliders of Jah Army creates uplifting and Grammy nominated music aimed to bring people together and bring the most light to this world that they can. Their sound is infectious and the combo of eight individual players in the band culminates to produce a show that is just as good every time these guys take the stage. They played their well known hit “I Don’t Wanna Wait” and added some special lyrics pertaining to the state of politics today, proving exactly why my love for this group is so profound. Slightly Stoopid closed out the night on the One Love Stage, bringing a little bit of all the genres that make up Stoopid’s music bank. Highlights included Stoopid’s signature O.D.B. tribute “Somebody,” “Don’t Stop,” “2 a.m.” and a sit in by Skunk Records co-founder Michael “Miguel” Happoldt.
Saturday brought a much drier day than Friday as some reinforcements were taken to combat the mud baths left on the grounds from the day before. Savannah Georgia’s rock outlet Passafire slayed an early set on the One Love Stage followed by a killer Seedless set. I have been waiting to see these guys since their 2010 album “Twisted Roots” stole my heart and boy, was I stoked to be able to soak in the Seedless soul fire music. Funk and reggae originators, War, from Long Beach, brought the funk back all the way from the seventies with their pre-sunset jams as the sun broke completely out and blanketed the smoke filled air with golden light before night two sank in. We took a little snack break and then headed to the Queen Mary Stage to listen to some Protege. After seeing them open up for Rebelution last year, I had been itching for more of the band’s feel good grooves. Chronixx jumped on stage for “Who Knows,” as a three ounce joint was sparked courtesy of the good people at We Should Smoke and all was perfect in the world. Definitely one of my favorite sets from the entire weekend. Legend Don Carlos dubbed the stage next as all were in awe and pure happiness being blessed by Carlos’s well known reggae hits and sweet, sweet song. Cruising back under the graffiti and art covered walkway, we filled up on water before soaking in the most perfect Iration set. Closing out the night for us was Rebelution, who I have seen about ten times now. Every single song is filled with genuine intention, passion, love and flavor and I can never get enough. They played all of the jams including “Know It All,” “Heart Like A Lion,” swoon-inducing “Pretty Lady,” “Meant to be,” “Brightside,” “Count Me In” complete with the most gnarly brass face off between trumpet player Zach Meyerowitz and Saxophonist Eric Hirschhorn, “Roots Reggae Music” and lots more.
The after shows took One Love to an entirely different level, allowing intimate late night sets inside The Queen Mary as the party really started rolling. New friends surrounded us as conscious music lovers from all over danced the night away into the wee hours of morning until the final day of festivities kicked off.
Sunday brought amazing sets from The Steppas, The Ziggens and legends The Wailers, who brought us back to where reggae music grew its roots. Steel Pulse preached their important messages of unity, justice and one love as the the final sunset of the weekend painted the sky and made way for the Long Beach Dub Allstars to takeover. The Dub/Ska/Rock band who reassembled a few years ago are key players in the scene and it was a pleasure to witness them live in action before heavy hitters 311 took charge. I hadn’t seen 311 in quite some time, so being able to head bang, sing my heart out and connect with other 311 fans from around the world was such a special time I will not forget.
Dirty Heads closed out the festival with a high energy set that had the entire festival grounds dancing. What an incredible weekend filled with THE best in reggae, rock, ska, punk, funk and good vibes! The change from a one day festival to a three day as well as the location change to the beautiful Long Beach harbor seemed to be a killer move by festival organizers and an overall success for everyone involved. We hope next year is just as great.