Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cali Roots and the future of Monterey Peninsula music

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    On Monday, organizers of the wildly successful California Roots Music & Art Festival announced an east coast version, "California Roots — The Carolina Sessions," Oct. 26 in Wilmington, North Carolina.
  It's an impressive accomplishment — a niche musical genre festival building momentum over a short period of time (the first festival was held in 2010), evolving into a 7,500-person-a-day, three-day event.
 To put it in perspective, the Monterey Jazz Festival, still the grand daddy of all regional music festivals, achieved its record three-day attendance watermark of 40,000-plus attendees in 2006 and 2007.
 That was accomplished 49 and 50 years after MJF was established. The jazz festival also had the benefit of a major corporate sponsor in Verizon.
 With total attendance of 22,500 at this year's event, Cali-Roots has grown to more than half that size of MJF. It did it independently, in less than five years.
 Cali-Roots organizers, chief among them founder Jeff Monser and lead organizer Dan Sheehan, are to be commended for establishing a solid brand and business model in the ever-so-fickle concert promotion industry.
 I can't say with any certainty that there's a lesson to be learned from the festival's success, but the evidence does bode well for contemporary music fans on the Monterey Peninsula.
 That is, when shows featuring young, hot, well-known musical artists with established buzz and loyal fan bases are announced, fans will show up from all over the region.
 I saw it last year with the Mumford & Sons "Gentlemen of the Road" tour stop, which brought in 10,000 people.
 It continued in April when Band of Horses performed a sold-out show at the Golden State Theater.
 Cali-Roots got it right by booking acts with strong touring experience and solid digital album sales. This year's headlining acts — Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid and Matisyahu — certainly fit those bills.
 It also helped that the Central Coast has a strong local reggae-rock music scene. Local acts like Wasted Noise and Matt Masih & The Messengers were rewarded for their hard work with spots on this year's Cali-Roots bill.
 As it stands, the Central Coast can regard itself as the national reggae-rock capital.
 Cali-Roots is in the process of establishing a year-round local presence. On July 5, it hosted J-Boog at the Fox Theater in Salinas. VIP tickets sold out before the doors even opened.
 That's not to say that anything with the reggae-rock tag is destined to sell-out locally. But it's proof positive that when promoters identify the right musical and cultural movement at the right time, and are able to cater to that audience, it can be very successful here on the Central Coast.
 The next test will be the First City Festival, which is promoted by Goldenvoice, the promotion company that organizes the Coachela Music & Arts Festival. With that built in brand recognition should serve FCF well.
 I predict a good turnout, anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 people a day. That still won't match up with Cali-Roots.
 Once First City Festival is done, we'll countdown the days until the 2014 Cali-Roots Festival lineup is announced.
 And we'll see if Cali-Roots can ultimately become the biggest music festival on the Central Coast. Period.

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