Of weed and wonder: California Vibrations Music Festival
Though it may have been too early in the year for California’s coveted delightfully-warm nights, the chill of Presidents Day weekend did nothing to stop massive crowds from descending on the festival grounds of the second annual California Vibrations Music Festival. Another success for Goldenvoice — an Los Angeles-based concert promoter known for hosting Coachella and Stagecoach — the three-day affair was a powerhouse move for many of the partners. The festival was filled with well-received advertisement campaigns from the likes of American Express, Monster Energy, Koi CBD and the Jamaica Tourist Board.
There were many notable performers that took part in the festival, such as Dirty Heads, Warren G, Slightly Stoopid and Stephen Marley. The obvious emphasis on reggae music worked wonders on the “vibe” of togetherness many fans felt throughout the events.
Reggae is a musical genre originating from Jamaica in the ‘60s, but also a cultural movement that has had significant contributions to social and political action. The music has a strong tie to community, often serving as a collective voice for marginalized groups. At the festival, attendees loudly welcomed even the yet-undiscovered Jamaica-native artists who were making their United States debut. Throughout the weekend, strangers became friends and many individuals found solace in meeting fellow music lovers.
“Reggae is love. Reggae is unity. Reggae is everything,” said Jaylah Wilson, a junior majoring in political science. “It’s used to tell the story of who we are, and I just think that the Cali Vibes Music Festival perfectly encapsulates all of that.”
When Snoop Dogg was announced as Saturday’s special guest performer, he seemed to be a perfect pick for the role. As a Long Beach local, the renowned artist is widely considered to be one of the gems of California. For a performance that started with a short film featuring Snoop Dogg walking down a hallway at an incredibly slow pace, the hour flew by with three decades-worth of hits ranging from “Drop It Like It’s Hot” to “Young, Wild & Free.” Flanked by an on-stage entourage of fellow vocalists, pole dancers and the mascot of smoking monkey NFTs, the star preached up an unholy storm to a crowd that knew every single word. It was pure chaos, and perfectly synchronous.
The second day’s highlight — and arguably one of the best performances — came in the form of Tiny Desk Concert alum Tash Sultana. As an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, Sultana wove sound and song through looping and — with the support of a seriously groovy band — she set an extremely high precedent for future Cali Vibes headliners.
Jack Johnson, known for his multiple No. 1 albums and — more importantly — soundtracking the Curious George film, was the festival’s other special guest performer. For a festival very much populated with reggae performances, Johnson’s performance ended the night with a welcomed change of pace. The former surfer’s performance was a comforting bear hug to a sardine-like crowd. With a vibe he could only derive from having years of fatherhood under his belt, Jack Johnson sang, blew into beer bottles and strummed his way into the hearts of anyone within earshot. Even with guests, Johnson stood unwaveringly in his headliner charisma. If anyone hadn’t seen Jack Johnson before, they’d be surprised to see a man taking the stage with mere jeans and a hoodie. If Snoop Dogg was straight-man-camp, then Jack Johnson was the perfect granola pairing for the other half of the legendary headliner duo.
As the founder of non-profit public charities such as the Johnson Ohana Foundation and the Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation, Johnson has been active in his environmental advocacy, and the impacts of his presence show throughout the festival. Collaborations between Goldenvoice and Jack Johnson’s team have led to the promoter donating to Johnson’s foundation, which will redirect these funds to local Southern California community groups including Algalita, 5 Gyres, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Upstream and the Rob Machado Foundation. The organizations were also invited to the event to engage with festival attendees on-site. Cali Vibes also had a notable partnership with r.cup, with many of the vendors choosing to use the zero-waste, reusable cup.
The festival also invited numerous vendors to line their walkways, and there seemed to be a throughline of sustainability and psychedelia that struck true for many of these businesses. Apart from a global variety of foods offerring throughout the festival grounds, Cali Vibes partnered with various artist brands, merchandise storefronts and quality select shops that attendees couldn’t keep themselves away from.
One of these vendors was Sunny Life, a burgeoning artisan, eco-textile brand that boasts a social mission of direct action in communities all around the world. By creating mutually beneficial partnerships that provide valuable resources to all parties while also producing festival-ready wear, vendors like these reflect much of Cali Vibes’ direction.
“We love being with folks who understand our mission the best. Cali Vibes, the reggae scene, we feel so well received,” said Sunny Taylor, the founder of Sunny Life. “I’m doing this because we were blessed with skills, resources, tools and connections, all of us. And we’re here to play a role to serve the highest, to serve each other and do the best that we can with what we have. If we’re not doing that, I feel like it’s doing an injustice.”
The 2023 iteration of Cali Vibes presented a music festival that felt truly authentic and tight-knit, even despite the magnitude of the event itself. With a strong showing from this year’s performers and a nearly eco-guilt-free experience, returning to the festival seems to be a no-brainer. Whether you’re reggae’s biggest fan or a casual concertgoer looking for a fun, cost-effective way to enjoy live music, Cali Vibes is an easy recommendation to make.
All eyes will be on Goldenvoice to see whether they’ll be able to turn this two-hit wonder into an annual Long Beach gem.