By Brian Tucker
This weekend California Roots: The Carolina Sessions will hold its second annual music and arts festival at Battleship Park. The two day festival will play host to twenty music acts along with kick-off and after party shows at Ziggy’s.
Attendees can take in an array of reggae-rock and world flavored acts like Matisyahu, Rebelution, Collie Buddz, Iration, The Expendables and B-Side Players. The festival also incorporates live painting around the festival grounds, adding a unique perspective as eight artists create in the moment.
California Roots began five years ago in Monterey, California as a festival combining music, art and environmental consciousness. Last year the festival expanded to the East Coast contuining to showcase music acts chosen for representing an ideology of art, music and awareness. San Diego’s B-Side Players, who perform Sunday afternoon, exemplify this. They began twenty years ago with a vision as a multicultural band with a multicultural sound.
“That is why we are still students of world music and will always experiment with different cultures to express ourselves,” B-Side singer and guitarist Karlos Paez said.
That thinking is illustrated well on the band’s atmospheric 2007 release Fire in the Youth that brings together rock, soul, reggae, funk, and textured by cultures from Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Brazil and Puerto Rico. It’s an excellent album, with songs like the hip but socially conscious “Unplug the Armageddon,” the carnival ambiance of “Mascara,” or the Mexico meets reggae energy of “Nuestras Demandas.”
The nine-piece band have maintained a career through live performances (their tour schedule is practically a new town every day) and travelling cross country with the support of the Jam Band scene and supporting bands like Phish, and Widespread Panic and touring with The Wailers, Toots And The Maytals, and Ben Harper. They’re set to release a Banda Sinaloense album (brass-based Mexican music combined with facets of German polka music) with Paez’ father Ezequiel Paez who has arranged music for numerous Mexican bands.
“There is definitely a difference but we enjoy playing both the large crowds and the intimate club shows.”
Among new songs posted on their Bandcamp page is “Rocky Road,” a catchy, universal song featuring brass instruments with plaintive acoustic guitar. Paez said the song came together quickly, with powerful lyrics “Fighting for hope on this rocky road, I fight for change/I fight for truth, I fight for our youth/I fight for you.”
“The whole entire song has four chords and no key changes,” Paez said. “Just a very simple arrangement to support the lyrics and message of the song.”
Paez delivers a strong chorus about survival, “Only the wise will give back/Only the righteous will uprise/Only will the strongest shall survive/This real desire.” Survival has many meanings and Paez said it’s about surviving two decades on the road, the sacrifices musicians and artists experience.
“Most people think the life of a traveling musician is about sex, drugs, and smooth sailing every night but the road is rocky and it takes wisdom, faith and strength to survive.”
Their longevity may lie in rejuvenation, like the addition of different musicians over the years and an open door policy to previous band members.
“Just like any family, a new member always inspires and unites the family a little stronger. Because of the heavy touring schedule we always seem to have different players in and out of the band but we have always been blessed to move forward.”
Twenty years on the road in a band, and coupled with that hectic schedule, Paez has smart advice for maintaining the energy – “No gasoline station food, no man-made drugs, and plenty of wheatgrass.”