In its third year, the One Love Cali Reggae Fest has earned its spot at the top as California’s premier reggae festival. Since planting roots in Long Beach at the Queen Mary Events Park, the concert has grown into a popular Southern California mid-winter wonderland featuring an array of artists who embody all-around good vibes.
Both days (Feb. 10 and Feb. 11) were sold out, bringing in thousands of fans over the weekend. While it was an eclectic crowd, it was hard to miss the ‘90s-style nostalgia as you maneuvered through the plumes of smoke, making your way between the two stages and the various vendors.
Places like Afters, home of the famous Milky Bun (where doughnuts meet ice cream), had a line that wrapped around the corner, as did many of the different merch tents. The One Love app made everything easy to find and allowed concertgoers to conveniently make their way between the Flav Stage and the Cali Reggae Fest Stage to choose who they wanted to see.
Both Saturday and Sunday had unbelievable lineups and each artist brought with them some outstanding energy. The band Pepper played a block of music from Kona Town, which was a special treat for fans during day one; while day two had acts like Long Beach Dub Allstars taking the stage.
Here are some more of the top highlights from the 2018 One Love Cali Reggae Fest.
5. Live painting during Matisyahu
Witnessing Matisyahu perform is a wonderful moment in itself but throwing in an artist who does live paintings during a musician’s set is a whole other entity. Both Matisyahu and Iration welcomed Jimmy Ovadia to the photo pit during their performances, offering a completely different kind of picture taking experience. Fans upfront got a unique perspective, watching the concert artist depict the vocalist as he commanded the stage. While Matisyahu gifted fans with a spiritual music experience, Ovadia, quite literally, painted a picture for them.
4. Iration covers Tom Petty
The reggae group took the stage both nights and jammed equally as hard for each set. Saturday night they invited two other Cali Fest performers onstage, KNOWAKING from Tyrone’s Jacket and J Boog, to debut their new song “Danger.” A huge hit with fans, Iration also did something very special in honor of Tom Petty. Each night, they closed with their own rendition of "Mary Jane's Last Dance." Mixing rock and reggae with heart and soul made both performances moments you were happy to be a part of.
3. Common Kings’ set brought the house down
No doubt that the two stages embodied very different vibes, but no matter where you were on the festival grounds when Common Kings went on, that energy just sucked you right in. Each musician on their own is a powerhouse. All incredibly talented, together they form this exciting, feel-good experience that takes you on a musical journey of fun and delight. With rock, reggae and a whole lot of other influences evident in their performance, their set helped usher in the evening, setting the tone (so to speak) for some high-energy infused fun.
2. Leon Mobley’s drum solo during “Burn One Down”
When Ben Harper came out with Fight for Your Mind in 1995, he filled a void in music no one knew was even missing before that time. Harper’s ability to mix folk, rock, blues and reggae made him an artist like no other. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals is, of course, a natural fit for One Love Cali Reggae Fest, which made their set one of the most stunning moments of the entire weekend. When percussionist Leon Mobley took center stage during “Burn One Down,” Ben Harper and bassist Juan Nelson both wore expressions that told us everything we needed to know about the artists' appreciation for each other. Throughout the night, Harper seamlessly transitioned between instruments including the lap steel and acoustic guitar, once again reminding us why we love him.
1. Nas makes hip hop a game changer at Cali Fest
With the addition of Nas and other artists such as Atmosphere, who performed this year, the One Love Cali Reggae Fest seems to have officially inducted hip hop into their repertoire. Nas is one musician whose fans straddle multiple genres, so bringing the rapper from New York to headline the 2018 show, was the perfect way to close things out. While Nas is no stranger to the festival circuit, putting him on this bill not only gave fans a chance to enjoy firsthand the hip hop songs that shaped a generation, but it also elevated Cali Fest to the next level.
One Love Cali Reggae Fest also saw a Friday night pre-party as well as two after-parties this year. Sunday night at The Observatory welcomed special guest, Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Be sure to check back with the One Love website for any exciting updates and future news on next year’s lineup.