By one definition, the word “festival” derives from an Old French adjective: “suitable for a feast…magnificent, joyful, happy.” The events produced by Good Vibez Presents, the Monterey-based company founded by Dan and Amy Sheehan, most certainly embody that definition.
Although Good Vibez puts on festivals and concerts at a wide range of venues in the western U.S., their flagship is the California Roots Music and Arts Festival, a four-day celebration—known simply as “Cali Roots”—of reggae and related genres held at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center. And that’s no accident. “The Fairgrounds is the birthplace of the American music festival,” Dan says. He’s correct. The Pattee Arena has been the site of the Monterey Jazz Festival since 1958 and hosted the seminal 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. In 2022, the Sheehans and their dedicated staff added Rebels & Renegades to their portfolio, a celebration of country and Americana music, also at the Fairgrounds.
Together and separately, the Sheehans have been working in the concert industry for more than two decades. Both are avid fans of the music they present and of festivals in general and, as a result, have pioneered a novel and thoughtful approach to how these events are presented and curated. Dan grew up to a soundtrack of reggae in Hawaii. “Hawaii is one of the only U.S. markets where reggae is played on commercial radio. Reggae was part of the heartbeat of the islands.” He came to the Bay Area in the 1990s for college and attended Garberville’s Reggae on the River. “I fell in love with festivals and that kind of gathering of people and realized that this is the industry I wanted to be in.”
Amy, meanwhile, cut her production teeth working with Renegade Productions at Lake Tahoe. “I learned a lot about publicity and on-site management of concerts,” she says. The two connected when Amy moved to Santa Cruz and attended some of the shows Dan was producing. “I realized this guy needed some help,” she says with a laugh, “so we started working together, initially putting together shows in Hawaii. That’s where we learned, together, how to produce events on a shoestring budget and how to work with just the stuff in your suitcase.”
Cali Roots is well beyond the shoestring stage. Now in its 13th year (two years were skipped due to the pandemic) the Memorial Day festival features dozens of acts on several stages plus interactive art events, carefully curated food and beverage options and—most importantly—a convivial, lively, highly positive, communal and mindful atmosphere.
A Family Affair
“We put a lot of effort into what people should expect at any Good Vibez event, whether it’s Cali Roots or Rebels & Renegades or any other of our events,” Amy says. “The first thing that comes to mind is that we are really thoughtful in the experience that not only the fans are having, but that the artists are having.” From the back of the house, the Good Vibez staff is thinking through every detail to make sure it’s a full experience. “For attendees, it’s not just ‘get your wristband, walk around, drink beer and listen to the bands,'” she adds. “It’s all these other elements; interactive artists, the sustainability aspect, the involvement of nonprofits and making sure that we’re supporting local artists and vendors. All this creates a multidimensional experience.”
Dan adds, “We provide the canvas for fans and artists. What happens at our events is organic. The number one takeaway is the vibe. Everyone feels welcome, fans, artists, staff and vendors.”
Wesley Finley is the drummer for Rebelution, a California-based reggae band with a long history of working with the Sheehans, going back to the Hawaii days. “We’ve played Cali Roots so many times,” he says. The event has special resonance for Finley, who grew up in Monterey County and recently moved to Monterey. “It’s one of the biggest reggae festivals anywhere and it’s only two miles from my house. I ride my bike to work.”
Finley says that his band and others look forward to Cali Roots as a time to catch up, hear and hang out with the other musicians they see on tour. “It’s like a family gathering. You keep running into people you know. It’s hard to get anywhere because it’s so easy to get sidetracked.”
“A few years ago, we had a team roaming the festival talking to fans and artists, asking what one word sums up the festival,” Amy says. “By far that word was ‘family.’ We didn’t set an intention for that, but it organically grew into it.”
A Sustainable Festival
The first year, Cali Roots’ attendance was around 1,200. It was 44,160 over the four days in 2022. Those kinds of numbers present a big environmental challenge. “By year four, we had grown exponentially,” Amy says. “Dan and I went to the site early Saturday morning after Friday’s show and there was a sea of trash on the ground, mostly plastic water bottles and beer cups. We were horrified.” The couple knew a change was essential. “We realized we needed to be industry leaders and make our event more sustainable, and we try to one up ourselves every year.” The following year they committed to eliminate single use water bottles, working with reusable container company Klean Kanteen to provide steel pint cups. There are free water refill stations throughout the festival grounds. Today, all vendors are required to use compostable packaging and single use items such as ketchup packets are prohibited.
Monterey company Blue Strike Environmen-tal takes care of waste diversion, sorting out recyclables behind the scenes. “They then give us reports on how we’re doing and how impactful our efforts are,” Amy explains. What used to be called a “VIP Pass” has been rebranded as the “Redwood Pass.” “We teamed up with the Redwood Forest Foundation of Fort Bragg. For every Redwood Pass we sell, they plant two redwood seedlings. To date, that equals 7,500 trees. That’s like a whole forest. It’s become a badge of honor for Pass holders, and they want to go visit their trees.”
Being conscious of our impact on the planet is the right thing to do,” Amy avers. “Festivals have a huge impact and sometimes it’s not easy, nor is it inexpensive…but it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
The Sheehans and their team have learned a lot from Cali Roots. “We are taking all the basic elements of that festival—interactive art, thoughtful curation of food vendors, excellent stage production, supporting local businesses and artists, inclusion of nonprofits—and appliying them to other genres,” Dan says. Those include Rebels & Renegades, the monthly Night Market in Sand City, Holo Holo Las Vegas, the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival and a host of one-off concerts. When you find a winning formula, it’s a good idea to stick with it, and Good Vibez is doing just that.
For more information about Good Vibez and their events, visit www.goodvibezpresents.com.