Date: Friday, May 22nd 2015 (9:30 – 11:00pm in The Bowl)
Line Up: SOJA with guest appearances by J Boog, Dustin Thomas, Ocean Pleasant, and Alfred The MC.
Venue: California Roots Music and Arts Festival. Monterey County Fairgrounds. Monterey, CA
Live: SOJA @ Cali-Roots (5-22-15)
California Roots will always be a special place for SOJA. The 2015 festival marks the 3rd time the group has made it to Monterey, and with each of their performances the group continues to surprise. Last year guitarist Trevor Young lit his guitar on fire just like Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival close to 50 years ago. And the globe-trotting group did not disappoint this year, satisfying a hungry audience with a set involving numerous guest appearances, covers, and a first time live performance of “Thunderstorms.”
California Roots founder Dan Sheehan has been a passionate supporter of the Washington, D.C based group. Sheehan helped bring SOJA to Hawaii for the first time and was responsible for much of their early publicity. In between songs, lead singer Jacob Hemphill took time to acknowledge the role Sheehan has played in the group’s current international success.
“That’s the first time we saw our name on a billboard, in the newspaper, or heard ourselves on the radio. They were the ones who showed us that maybe this is what we should be doing for the rest of our lives. This festival is truly the best festival in the United States of America.”
Hemphill and company opened with the commercially successful single “I Believe” off their most recent release, Amid The Noise And The Haste. While the song was missing the presence of featured artist and California Roots Day 2 performer Michael Franti, SOJA made up for it with a litany of guest appearance throughout their hour and a half set.
Perhaps the loudest the Bowl stage got all day is when SOJA brought up J Boog to perform his popular track “Let’s Do It Again.” Then Hemphill, with his low-hanging guitar in tow, brought on the young Dustin Thomas to perform a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Changes.” Thomas has quickly made a name for himself only a day into the festival. He performed on the Original Stage early on and him and his eccentric afro seemed to be popping up everywhere on day one.
Then SOJA brought on an even younger performer, the seventeen year old Ocean Pleasant, making only her second appearance on stage. Pleasant and Hemphill sang a duet of her new song “Love Letter to Myself (I Will Love).”
The brand new artist was discovered when she went on the Soulshine Tour with Michael Franti, SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall as the daughter of the tour’s yoga instructor.
As per usual, SOJA’s set featured the musical stylings of the group’s talented background musicians. Sax-player Hellman Escorcia had a significant solo as did trumpet player Rafael Rodriguez. Singer/guitarists Trevor Young and Bobby Lee also provided some of the night’s most memorable moments. The increased role of the rest of SOJA’s band one of the reason’s why their live sets never seem to get monotonous.
While there were no guitars on fire on Friday, Hemphill surprised fans by performing “Thunderstorms” off the band’s 2009 album, Born in Babylon. A song, Hemphill confesses, the band never plays live and most likely never will play again.
“We didn’t know how to top last year’s set, so we brought a bunch of lasers and decided to play a song we never have played live before and will never do again.”
Multiple members of the band utilized a cleared pathway that ran right through the middle of the crowd. Hemphill, Lee, and Young all made trips down the aisle, playing their instruments all throughout. In the latter part of the show, SOJA was joined by frequent collaborator Alfred The MC.
The rapper played a part in a samba version of “Not Done Yet.”
California Roots Day 1 ended in spectacular fashion. SOJA’s late night performance, filled with guest and surprises, helped illuminate a festival that is on it’s way up.
Strength TO Survive
Let’s Do It Again (ft. J Boog)
Rest of My Life
Changes (ft. Dustin Thomas)
Let You Go (ft. Ocean Pleasant)
I Don’t Wanna Wait
Not Done Yet (ft. Alfred The MC) – SAMBA
You and Me
Promises and Pills (ft. Alfred The MC)
The Pier: Set-Lists at Cali-Roots 2015
Exclusive SOJA Blog
Article By: Keenan Donath
Photos By: David Norris
Watch: The Pier at Cali-Roots 2015
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