Reggae music has been huge on the West Coast ever since Bob Marley broke out in the U.S. with Rastaman Vibration in 1976. Reggae spread up and down the coast, from San Diego to Seattle. This growth has spawned not only several notable festivals and bands but a host of regional and local weekly events that cater to the love of reggae in all its forms. California has the lion’s share of reggae action. Not only is reggae music is alive and well all along the West Coast; it is growing.
From roots reggae to dub, dancehall, rock, and various fusions, reggae music is hot on the West Coast. The number of bands drawn by a spiritual inclination to the roots reggae subgenre alone is enough to tell you that reggae isn’t dead. California continually rediscovers reggae as a way to bring communities together in the Rastafarian spirit of One Love, One World.
Hot West Coast Reggae Bands
The West Coast is home base for many reggae bands, covering all genres of reggae music. From roots to dub to dancehall, the West Coast reggae scene has it all. The bands in the following list are among the hottest reggae bands in the country and regularly feature on the reggae festival circuit.
Many of these groups often perform together in the same shows and festivals, presenting audiences with a dynamic variety of hip-moving reggae vibe.
The Expanders are a big part of the burgeoning Los Angeles reggae scene. Known for their classic 1970’s Jamaican-influenced sound — http://theexpanders.net/
Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People frontman, Nahko Bear, has been compared to Bob Marley and proclaimed a “musical prophet” — http://nahko.com/
Must-See West Coast Reggae Festivals
While there are many festivals on the West Coast every year, the number of California reggae festivals comes close to outnumbering all the rest. Many reggae festivals have started up in Oregon and Washington state, but only three have survived through 2016.
California remains the place to start when you’re looking for reggae festivals. The festival season runs from March through October, so there are plenty of opportunities to see your favorite reggae artists along with up and coming bands.
Best California Reggae Festivals
- Dry Diggings Festival, Placerville, CA — http://drydiggingsfestival.com/
- Rootfire at the Beach, Avila Beach, CA — http://rootfire.net
- Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival, South Lake Tahoe, CA — https://www.facebook.com/LakeTahoeReggaeFestival
- One Love One Heart, Sacramento, CA — http://oneloveoneheartreggaefestival.weebly.com/
- Bay Area Vibez, Oakland, CA — http://www.bayareavibez.com/
- California Roots Festival, Monterey, CA — http://californiarootsfestival.com/
- JazzReggae Fest, Los Angeles, CA — http://www.jazzreggaefest.com/
- Reggae in the Hills, Chico, CA — http://reggaeinthehills.com/
- Reggae on the River, French’s Camp, CA — http://www.reggaeontheriver.com/
- Oroville Rock Reggae Jam Fest, Oroville, CA — http://www.orovillerockreggaejamfest.com/
- Reggae on the Mountain, Topanga, CA — http://reggaeonthemountain.com/
Notable California Communities with Regular Reggae Happenings
There’s no question that California is home to the most vibrant reggae communities on the West Coast. Perhaps that’s driven by population, but more likely it’s the result of the hunger for the music of all types along the coast. Here’s a must-visit list of regular reggae happenings in California.
San Diego, CA is home to a number of clubs supporting reggae music, and a walk along its beaches will reveal impromptu reggae jam sessions every day of the week thanks to its beautiful weather. Venues such as the 710 Beach Club (Pacific Beach), Galagher’s Pub and Grill (Ocean Beach), Winstons Beach Club (Ocean Beach), Club Spin (home to Reggae Sundays), and Croce’s Park West (Bankers Hill) regularly feature the best in West Coast reggae and ska. For more listings, see http://www.irieone.com/city/san-diego-reggae-clubs-events/.
Los Angeles, CA has a host of reggae clubs and events, as you might expect from the entertainment capital of the world. On Sundays alone, six clubs host regular reggae events, includeing Caribbean Sundayz at The Savoy Entertainment Center in Inglewood, Fully Fullwood Live Reggae Sunday at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Jamaican Gold International Sundays at The Study in Hollywood, and Reggae Sundays at the Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach. For an extensive list of weekly reggae shows, visit http://www.irieone.com/city/los-angeles-reggae-clubs-events/.
Santa Cruz, CA is a surprisingly vibrant home for the West Coast reggae community given its size and the number of regular events going on in the small, old Northern California beach community. Perhaps that’s in part because of the number of students attending UC Santa Cruz. But Santa Cruz has always had a laid-back vibe that encouraged the adoption of new music and its propagation among local musicians and music aficionados alike. From the regular Reggae Beach Jam at The Crow’s Nest (2218 East Cliff Drive) – open to all comers — to Bocci’s Reggae Saturdays at Bocci’s Cellar (140 Encinal Street) featuring dancehall and roots reggae, visitors to Santa Cruz will find lots to love in its reggae scene.
San Francisco, CA has its share of weekly and monthly reggae events, in addition to impromptu jam sessions that frequently happen in and around Golden Gate Park. The key weekly reggae events in San Francisco are Dub Mission at the Elbo Room (647 Valencia Street, San Francisco), King of Kings Reggae Sundays at The New Parish (579 18th Street, Oakland), Skylarking at Skylark (3089 16th Street, San Francisco), Bless Up at Milk (1840 Haight Street, San Francisco), and Flex Thursdays at Era Art Bar (19 Grand Ave, Oakland).