Reggae on the Mountain: Homegrown Music Festival Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The Two-Day Festival Was Founded by Former Pali High Student Amit Gilad

By JAMES GAGE | Contributing Writer

Thousands of music lovers from around California and the globe will gather August 17 and 18 for the 10th annual Reggae on the Mountain music festival—with roots tied to Pacific Palisades.

The two-day, family-friendly festival in the Santa Monica Mountains near King Gillette Ranch will feature some of the biggest names in roots reggae music, including Steel Pulse, Julian Marley, Matisyahu, Hirie and Third World.

Reggae on the Mountain was founded by Label 27 event company owners Brooks Ellis and Amit Gilad, who attended Palisades Charter High School. The two started out playing music together at late night Topanga jam sessions, later forming their own band, The Chiefs, which headlined Topanga Days. The two dreamed up an event of epic proportions.

“We started out having these fun backyard parties,” Gilad explained to the Palisadian-Post. “That’s how we got into throwing festivals and productions. It was just something we loved to do.”

Gilad, who attended Pali High from grades nine to 11, regularly organized the school’s yearly Battle of the Bands.

“I wouldn’t say I was looking to get out of class per se,” Gilad joked. “I really wanted a way to channel my energy into productive pursuits that would be smiled upon. The Battle of the Bands was so fun every year, and seeing how much energy and talent the kids in high school had, how many bands would sign up—it was really great to create this kind of musical community and an outlet for artists to share their work.”

Festival Founder Amit Gilad

“The Palisades holds a really special place in my heart,” Gilad continued. “I spent my whole youth there, riding skateboards. The teachers at Pali High had a huge impact on me.”

Gilad utilized his skills in event coordination to create Reggae on the Mountain, which would quickly rise to prominence on the festival circuit. Over the years, ROTM has hosted big-name acts, including reggae/dancehall DJ Yellowman, original Black Uhuru member Don Carlos, Toots & The Maytals, Kymani Marley and the Easy Star All-Stars.

“It really happened organically,” Gilad said. “You learn every year to do a better job and treat people well and build out relationships. It’s become something bigger than ourselves. It’s something people expect so we want to do our part and put on a good show.”

The festival began with humble roots at the Topanga Community Center, the primary beneficiary of its proceeds and its host for nine years. Now in its 10th year, the massive festival has outgrown the small venue.

The new venue offers the festival a later sound curfew (11 p.m.) and camping arrangements, making it one of only two festivals in LA that allows camping. It will also be able to host yoga seminars, wellness booths and more.

“We were looking for a new venue to expand to, and King Gillette Ranch came on my radar after they did a Woolsey fire benefit,” Gilad explained. “We got in touch with them through local partners. They’ve been really helpful and grateful, and it’s one of the most beautiful locations I’ve seen for a festival.”

This year, the event will donate proceeds to victims of the Woolsey fire, as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica and nonprofit Life Rolls On.

“It’s really something positive,” Gilad said. “We wanted to give back to our community charitably while still having fun. I love reggae because it supports such a diverse community of people. It’s inclusive of everyone, of all cultures and backgrounds and ages from little kids to senior citizens.”

“We’ve worked really hard to create an event that’s authentic,” Gilad said. “We watched some of these artists performing as kids, and to be working with them now, having them want to play our show, is a dream come true.”

For more information, visit reggaeonthemountain.com.