TVD Live Shots: 2020
One Love Cali Reggae Fest, Day 1 at Queen
Mary Park, 2/7

LONG BEACH, CA | It’s no surprise that One Love Cali Reggae Fest has become one of the premier reggae festivals in the US. Since their early days at The Observatory OC in Santa Ana, this festival has gotten bigger and better every year since its inception back in 2015 with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Situated gracefully under the watchful eye of The Queen Mary in beautiful Long Beach, One Love continues to attract reggae’s best and brightest and this year’s event was no exception. Legendary bands such as Dirty Heads, Rebelution, and Slightly Stoopid headlined a three-day event for the ages that left die-hard fans wanting more.

Having been to countless festivals over the years, its important to know right out of the gate that One Love Cali Fest is different from most of the large-scale events one might attend. Upon entering the park, you are immediately immersed with a reggae vibe that feels different. Flanked by three stages, guests can leisurely wander back and forth to catch their favorite bands or better yet take in new ones they’ve never heard before.

The atmosphere at One Love is completely chill and absent of the pretentiousness that accompanies many of the cookie-cutter music festivals crisscrossing the US these days. I met more insanely cool people in one afternoon that I had at the last 10 concerts I had covered and I’m probably being generous.

In addition to beautiful weather and an out-of-this-world vibe, Friday’s line up was second to none and the one I circled on my calendar when the festival was first announced back in November. Unfortunately for me, there were 25 insane acts performing that day across three stages (SMKFLWR., Roots & Culture, and the Tiki Stage) and I’d have to choose which ones I’d be watching (as there was no real way to cover them all).

That said, I followed my heart and covered the acts that resonated with me on a more personal level. Although all the sets I watched on Friday were amazing, these three were on a whole different level and my top three by far:

3. Josh Heinrichs & Skillinjah: Good lord, this was an amazing performance. I’ve never seen a cat this soulful or a crowd this high in all my life. If this were the only set you could catch across the 3-day festival, it would capture everything you would want to experience in a reggae festival and then some. I was in awe during the entire set.

2. Matisyahu: I’ve been a fan of Matisyahu for years and can always count on a fresh new spin on his classics during a live show. Friday’s performance took his band’s improvisational skills to a whole new level (and that’s no easy feat these days). I was mesmerized throughout Matisyahu’s 40-minute set and am sure others felt the exact same way when the music came to an end. Matisyahu is a true reggae legend.

1. Pepper: Originating in Hawaii and now based on the West Coast, Pepper stole the show on Friday night with one of the most energetic sets I have seen in ages. Simply put, this performance was special. Their brand of reggae was a hybrid of sorts, combining rock, ska, and punk into a killer fusion that fired on all cylinders. Add the trio’s unbridled energy and Pepper literally ignited the SMKFLWR. stage in short order in front of a now capacity crowd. The evening was never quite the same after their performance, and it’s one I won’t soon forget. Pure badassery for their first show of 2020!

When the dust finally settled on a starlit Friday night, it was hard to comprehend what I had just witnessed over the past 10-hours. One Love Cali Reggae Fest – Day 1 was in the books and it was by all accounts straight fire. Twenty-five bands crushed it over three unique stages and a sold-out crowd was screaming for more when all was said and done. Whether you were down with Sublime with Rome, Steel Pulse, or Mike Pinto, there were special moments at One Love for every fan in attendance. Goldenvoice has done a brilliant job cultivating this festival since they took it over a few years ago and it seems to be getting better with age. I’m excited to see how they will be able to top it in 2021.










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