Its not uncommon for inaugural festivals to run into obstacles in their first year, but the highly-experienced California Roots organization based out of Monterey, which will be celebrating 10 years of success this May, was able to spread their brand successfully to Arizona February 9-10, 2019. Arizona Roots featured some of the top reggae talents with headliners like Stick Figure, Dispatch, Trevor Hall and Rebelution, among other artists. Some reggae enthusiasts traveled from nearby neighboring states while others traveled from as far as the Dakotas. “I’m stoked the Cali Roots crew decided to start another festival and pick a different month because traveling during Memorial Day weekend is expensive,” said festival attendee, Mark Smart, from South Dakota. The festival boasted 5 individual experience levels to make your weekend as memorable as possible. They ranged from General Admission to Platinum VIP, which gave festival goers access to raised viewing platforms, private restrooms, catered meals with the bands, and complimentary drinks.
It is no surprise the headliners were the highlight of the event; you could almost feel the whole Rawhide Western Town teeming with excitement as crowds began to descend toward the main stage to see Trevor Hall. The brisk desert air didn’t deter the crowd but instead initiated warm conversations between strangers as people flocked to the outdoor heaters located around the stage to stay warm while enjoying the show. As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, a chorus of voices rose up singing along to Trevor Hall’s Lime Tree and everywhere you looked you saw relaxed smiles, bright eyes and positive vibes. J Boog took the stage after Trevor Hall and played a phenomenal set as a striking Arizona sunset lit up the sky behind the main stage. The clouded sky soon gave way to big, bright stars as festival goers danced and sung to music of Atmosphere and Rebelution. The fun didn’t stop there as all attendees were given access to the two night on-site after party which kept the crowd groovin’ to the musical stylings of various artist such as Dem Atlas, The Lioness, and Mellow Psychedelic Culture into the wee hours of the night.
Aside from the musical headliners, Arizona Roots hosted a number of artists and vendors. The vendor booths sold everything from CBD edibles to licensed Grateful Dead merchandise, while various artists live-painted murals. 8-time Burning Man art car, Movement of Jah People, greeted festival goers as they entered the venue. For those of you who have never seen Movement of Jah People, it has two levels, a built in bathroom, and a large metal roaring lion head covering the front of the vehicle. The tongue features a bench that seats two! MoJP’s second story allowed attendees unparalleled views of the stages and the beautiful Phoenix landscape. The lion’s head is covered in small Burning Man symbols that were plasma cut into the sheet metal, those drops were then given out to participants during the art car’s first few years on the playa. “You could own a piece of the art car,” remarks owner and Arizona local, Ian Liljeblad. Aside from cruising around Burning Man for the past 8 years, MoJP has been in a number of parades and hopes to frequent other regional burns and festivals.
Liljeblad also brought his recent creation and new art car: Big Willy. Big Willy is a replica of wartime Willy’s MB that is roughly two times the scale and is a fully functional trail-ready Jeep. If that wasn’t enough, Big Willy has been outfitted with pulsing LEDs that add a touch of spunk to this spot-on military replica. Between the blocks on the pedals that allow drivers to reach and the comically oversized steering wheel, climbing up into Big Willy’s driver seat will make you feel like a kid again. Thank you Ian for sharing your art with Arizona Roots!
If you find yourself looking for a reggae festival nestled in the desert mountains, Arizona Roots should be number 1 on your list, but don’t take my word for it, come check it out for yourself!