Friday, February 24, 2017

How One Love Cali Reggae Fest '17 (Year Two) was a Raging Success and Failure Feb. 10-13

A review of Friday and Saturday One Love Cali Fest by Frankie Tease 

One Love Cali Fest '17, Rebelution, One Love Stage

Feb. 10-13 The One Love Cali Reggae Festival, in year two, (previously at OC Observatory Santa Ana) decided to bring the fest to Queen Mary Park in Long Beach, CA. There are a lot of notes on how the event could could be improved should it go forward into 2018 but I'd like to thank the organizer Jeffrey Shuman for his decision to move it to my home (native) city of Long Beach and to the Queen Mary Events Area. Other iconic events have found a home there including: Shoreline Jam (#), Ink & Iron, Scots Festival and more. May the One Love Cali Reggae Festival run long.

The set up was two diamond shapes (not like Shoreline Jam), with a concrete tunnel in the middle you had to go under and pass through to get between stage areas (which was graffiti painted). Vendors were strong, including each of the bands, the huge merch table for the event, Weedmaps, Calibis, FlavorRx, Surf Roots, and many more. The side B stage area had more fun things including Lagunitas Bus Bar (a Petaluma CA company) and Captain Morgan Lounge (covered from rain) where you could relax in what is one of the few areas with seats, play Toss Ball and drink. Stage A was the side where the lockers and picnic seating tables were (uncovered), aka One Love Stage.

Stage A was on the grass side, and they had set down huge tarps and wood chips for most of the area. For some reason the organizers did not tarp the area right near the tunnel and that became the Woodstock-like mud bath throughout the weekend. I saw a woman go down and felt blessed it wasn't me. Tarped areas were thoroughly soaked by mid Friday, and were like quicksand to navigate both days. It was completely non-handicapped friendly and I saw people struggling with that in a wheelchair. (Geek out: I ran into the drummer with Stick Figure mid-Friday, coming out of the Stage B tunnel and he gave me knuckles).

Pre-Show Stuff 
Deciding to attend the One Love Cali Reggae Fest 2017, my journey began for G.A. tickets for myself on Friday and V.I.P. tickets for my friend Tracey from Arizona and myself for Saturday. I got the tickets, she got her plane ticket. It was on. After paying for each of the three tickets with a separate credit card via (Tickets Today), Friday GA was $65. plus $3.95, plus $19.95 (Tickets Today) service fee. So it was $88.90 all told. One (each) V.I.P. Saturday ticket was $140., plus $19.95 handling (Tickets Today), and $3.95 mailing fee each. So total $163.90 each for V.I.P. (I added the $30 V.I.P. merchandise upgrade) It did not disappoint. But Tickets Today should allow more than one ticket purchase per credit card. That was excessive. We paid about $60 service fee for the three tickets.

Pre Fest Booking Surprises
Next, there was a huge rumble through the universe: they'd be splitting into two stages and tons of people felt the band they were going to see was pitted directly against the band they were also going to see. For expamle: Stage A: Rebelution 9:45, Stage B: Josh Heinrichs & Skillin' Jah same time. How about choosing between J Boog on stage A or Protoje right from Jamaica on stage B at Six o'clock? It was obvious the stages were split due to overbooking. That's unfair to fans. It borders on false advertising because posters clearly had one column until a few days prior. Having stages side by side would allow set up and performance at the same time, and fans wouldn't have to walk a mile between stages missing so much. It was too sprawling, and the second stage artists were neglected by many including quality sound at times (more later). But if there are two stages stagger the performance times. Give us a chance to see who's booked. 25 minute sets aren't fair to anyone.

Toward the last week before the event, J Boog was switched from late Sunday to late Saturday (due to Grammy nomination). Little did we expect the next announcement: The Wailers would be reunited to play the "Legend" album in entirety at sunset on Sunday and the Long Beach Dub All Stars would play. Damn, too bad we weren't attending Sunday as well. Imagine if those were announced before tickets went on sale? That would be fair.

Friday 2/10/17:  G.A. Hirie, Fortunate Youth, Stick Figure
As I arrived Friday, it was around 2:15. I figured I'd be able to catch the end of the set for Arise Roots which I was curious to see. That is where my jinx with the festival continued (after the disappointment of all the purchase fees and I had been watching the weather all week and saw rain was expected for Friday, and a lot of it). I started my fest by waiting in line a whole hour, in the rain. I missed the visiting act I came to see and now had two hours until my next slated act, Hirie. I quickly checked into the locker I had purchased (no regrets Locker Lou!) and cruised the vendor area.

As Hirie opened the area became packed (around 4:45pm). Her Hawaiian sound mixed with tight stage show and horn section, have been making a name for themselves, and she was also an original act which played the inaugural fest in OC. One of the highlights is not only hearing "Sensi Boy" live, but her medley using classic monster reggae hits including Steel Pulse's "Open Sesame". The band sings "Open Sesame' - here comes Hirie Band". A nice touch, and soon we were singing along with her "Broader than Broadway". and the set was over. Time passed and the rain didn't.

Fortunate Youth was up next and on my list. Finessing their performance with smooth multi-octave vocals and slick syncopated bongo rhythms, the band culminated in perfection singing "let it rain let it rain let it rain on me" as they moved through their original tune "Love Is the Most High". My first time seeing them live, I was already a fan of the vocals, but now impressed with the depth of the band. They delighted the crowd treating the rain as one of one of their percussion instruments. An absolutely surprisingly beautiful memory for me as a first timer of their live show. Will be seeing them again soon.

Stick Figure - I gravitated closer to the stage and heard a group near me (two couples) quoting Stick Figure lyrics as KBong was visible setting up his keyboard on stage. I completed one of the lyric and a guy turned and said "I like this girl, she knows what's up. I met Scott and hung out with him". "I met K Bong after a show." I offered. We huddled together - everyone in a plastic rain hoodie, with a few souls going bare skinned in the rain. Cocoa the Tour Dog breezed out on stage (she looked fabulous) and we knew it was time. They started with "Fire on the Horizon" and the crowd was fired up immediately - while drenched and in about a foot of mud. That soon led to "Weary Eyes" amazing live... "Weight of Sound" and more. They brought singer Hirie on stage for a duet finale', and the band ended with a little ditty "Don't Worry Be Happy" so perfect for the issues we'd been having. I left and caught the bus to the convention center and walked to a Lyft point (20% off rides with promo code for weekend). Friday behind me I tried to dry out and get ready for my BFF Saturday who arrived by plane from Arizona at 11:30 a.m.

Saturday 2/11/17:  V.I.P.: Chronixx, J Boog, Protoje, The Green,  Rebelution, Don Carlos, Israel Vibrations
Blessed with dry weather we began the day with our Lyft ride to the Queen Mary. With V.I.P. entrance was about 15 minutes, including a body and bag search. First stop lockers, and then we hunted around for merchandise. Tracey noticed the shopping bags and said let's get one before they sell out. Good Call, T, they did sell out mid-day and those weren't in our V.I.P. merch package. The art for the event was stellar all around, and good keepsakes.

We wandered around and had terrible food. Please Jefferey, the amount of Vegetarian, Asian, Polynesian, and Jerk Jamaican choices around LA and OC are plentiful but you got chicken tenders and tacos? It was so bad. The one Pink Taco stand had about 40 minutes wait at all times, so didn't have a good time in that department. The party in the middle was at the vendors playing their own music, dealing and wheeling. I was exited to purchase the Rebelution Vape Kit - and found out from Flavor Rx they couldn't sell it on site after all. Dang.

Chronixx (who's name stands for chronology and yes he vapes marijuana too) did a prestigious set and was a songbird finessing the octaves, and appearing so smooth and sublte. The hits were Smile Jamaica, Out Deh, and he opened with Here Comes Trouble (oh yes!). I told Tracey I thought the V.I.P. was acting pretty lazy for him, and as he played the sun set in Long Beach, California and we were happy.

J Boog was set to go on One Love Stage, and Protoje direct from J.A. was set to go on at 6pm at the Queen Mary stage. This is where Tracey and I were forced to separate. Do you understand what you're doing to good friends here Jeffrey? I had an actual ache in my heart as I left to see Protoje. I walked through the tunnel like a cattle with thousands of others making the commute to see the man. The stage had sound issues and went on 30 minutes late, and I felt the stage didn't treat Protoje' right but he burnt it down anyway.

One Love Cali Fest '17, Protoje, Queen Mary Stage

The Protoje set opened with I & I, his original featuring his rap stylings and thick drum and bass, sprinkled with intermittent guitar, trickling around his vocals... his bookend female vocalists working and dancing in unison. Crowd in hand, we recognized all the songs and then - he lead us to Who Knows the smash hit with Chronixx who blessed us with a collaboration. They sang the hit and each rapped and told us "Chronixx and Protoje' are for the Californian". Protoje ended with Kingston Be Wise and we all floated out of the area.

We dove for the V.I.P. stand where our merch was supposed to be waiting, the booth was closed all day saying it'd open at 6:30, that became 8:30. We got our stuff and Tracey's guy forgot to take her voucher. She went back and scored two scarves. I owe you on that one girl, great job.

Next, we were back at the One Love stage for The Green. The entire set I spent listening and dancing while at the V.I.P. bathroom line. Couldn't see the stage. What a mistake, other lines were way shorter in the non-V.I.P. area. The Green tore up the stage with many hits, and J Boog blessed us with a collaboration when they played Mama Roots, so I did get to hear J Boog after all, for one song. They brought down the house - everybody was dancing and groovin' like there wasn't a damn bit of mud.

Don Carlos at stage B or The Queen Mary Stage was smooth as ever with his futuristic grey dreads, and smooth stage presence. "I'm taking requests. I can't hear you. Wait I can hear this beautiful young woman up front..." Everyone laughed. Then more heavy hitting classics with Israel Vibrations announcing their songs first, as they are so recognizable. And we danced... I was very remiss to miss Josh Heinrichs and Skillin Jah who I saw tear up the stage at Shoreline Jam. They were directly against Rebeultion. Who does that? C'mon Jeffrey, you're killin' us (instead of skillin' us).

The majority of us then ponied up to become little children for the stunning Rebelution portion of the festival. They opened with Sky is the Limit, moved on to (out of order) Good Vibes, De-Stress, Roots Reggae Music, Feelin Alright, Safe and Sound, Inhale Exhale, Bright Side, and they didn't play Fade Away as a finale. Rebelution has a new saxophone player and sounded great but I did miss the dreaded one, who I think I saw come out for the finale. Erich Rachmany and band deliver a precise and moving performance (with great lighting) and you can always see their live music melt even the toughest of tuff guys. One Love is their message and the positivity in their music is real.

As we stumbled out of the field through the mud we made our way to the Lyft area in front of Queen Mary (a hike). After about a half  hour we heard no Uber or Lyft was allowed to pick up due to traffic jam. We decided to hit that port-o-potty and later agreed it shouldn't have ended like that. I shiver at the thought. We missed a city bus by two people after 30 minute wait, the free school bus lines to convention parking were maxed out, so we hiked up to the bridge and back to downtown. Two girls who'd also hiked out and run out of battery joined us and we "Lyfted" them to buy a battery as we left for the night and weekend. The festival made us work way too hard to be there but the artists delivered to the maximum quality. Next year I'll buy a three day pass (not sure if V.I.P. is worth it), and stay at the Queen Mary Hotel to get ins and outs throughout the weekend. That'd be the ticket.

Notes to organizers: 


In review: don't trap us at the Queen Mary unable to leave without hiking out. Don't sell V.I.P. tickets and then have no V.I.P. area at second stage. Don't make people wait an hour at the entrance to get in, that already have tickets (omg). Don't cover all mud areas except a small back area, creating a mudslide of the century we had to not fall in all weekend. Don't promise V.I.P. merch and then not deliver (some things ran out). Don't pit artists against artists with same start times. If you have two stages put them side by side setting up one while the other plays. We didn't come there to run a marathon between stages. Don't forget to have good food. You really didn't. Do not split the stage after you sold all the tickets. We noticed. And those school buses? They blew harsh fumes toward the front stage area and gassed us out all weekend: fail. Why not get some boat shuttles from Shoreline Village directly where we could also park quite easily.

Do service the port-o-potties throughout the day / weekend (gasp). Do have seats somewhere - anywhere especially in V.I.P. Do have V.I.P. UP FRONT in both stage areas. Have a front V.I.P. pit. Do allow artists an approximate hour each instead of overbooking and giving us barely 30 mins with them. Do have the stage ready for your artists - have working equipment for your artists. I saw what you did to Protoje. His set was delayed 30 minutes, I could have been watching JBoog but didn't dare to run back and forth. Do better.

Please do come back to Long Beach in 2018, (we'll allow it :). Maybe though, take some notes from the V.I.P. set up at Shoreline Jam. Please listen to the feedback of fans to ensure the longevity of your event. Do make a hashtag or unified marketing/branding so people can participate on social media. One Love Cali Reggae Fest isn't a hashtag, it's a run-on sentence. #OLCF17 is what I am using. I wish you guys luck with the planning for next year. One Love did carry us through in celebration of the birthday of Bob Marley (unspoken). Thanks to the massive presence of peace and positivity of the music, you got lucky. It was a truly a blessed festival. You just need to treat the patrons much better so we can rejoice not fret our decision to come there. No what I mean Jeffrey? 

Bands I regret not seeing: Through the Roots, Josh Heinrichs / Skillin Jah, The Steppas, Inna Vision, Pacific Dub, The Wailers, Slightly Stoopid, The Aggrolites, Raging Fyah, Arise Roots, Ital Vibes.

Article by Frankie Tease Feb. 24, 2017

for Frankie Tease Magazine