It all started with a band and a dream—for the two locals in charge of Reggae on the Mountain, at 18 and 19, music was life.
“We started this in 2009 and we had no idea that it was going to work out—18- and 19-year-old kids wanting to throw a cultural arts events but also raise money for local nonprofits,” cofounding partner Brooks Ellis said. “Luck and hard work was with us and over 400 people showed up to our first one.”
Co founders and owners of Reggae on the Mountain Festival, Brooks Ellis and Amit Gilad have hosted the festival at Topanga Canyon for the past nine years. To celebrate the 10th, the festival will be hosted in the Santa Monica Mountains at King Gillette Ranch on Aug. 17 and 18.
“There’s a couple rock and roll festivals around and we wanted to do something that was a little different, still in the vein of Southern California, Malibu, Topanga style but add a little bit diversity and flare,” Ellis said. “Not only to bring that to the Santa Monica Mountains but for ourselves to learn as well.”
Ellis said they moved to King Gillette Ranch because they outgrew the former location in Topanga Canyon.
“We’ve got a feasible ground starting there and it grew very organically and very naturally throughout the years,” Ellis said. “It was a lot of hard work but we’ve got a great community to work with.”
Ellis said they’ve really enjoyed other festivals they’ve gone to like Reggae on the River. With the minimum funding they received for the first year, it gave them the opportunity to host a great festival on a shoestring budget.
“This is a beautiful place to bring it and we couldn’t be happier,” Ellis said.
Ellis and Gilad have known each other for more than a decade.
“We grew up together in Topanga Canyon and we had a band together,” Gilad said. “We got involved with the community center up there ... and getting involved with Topanga Days and we did our own festival and it grew a little bit every year.”
“We really want to do something that’s inclusive, too—we like the genre reggae, from all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures, we want to be diverse,” Gilad said.
Ellis and Gilad said the way they promoted their festival wasn’t through social media but with flyers.
“We went to Kinkos and printed flyers and passed them around on the street; there was Facebook around then but we weren’t super tech savvy. We still pass out flyers today,” Ellis said.
Raising money for charity and organizations is very important to them, so a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Woolsey Fire victims. The Boys and Girls Club are a part of the festivities as well.
Public relations and marketing coordinator Craig Melone said because Amit and Brooks had 10 years of successful experience, the park was on board with hosting the festival.
“It’s a very family friendly environment and both of these gentlemen and the producers, they’ve been giving back to the community for 10 years,” he said. “We needed someplace new and fun and this place became available and they’re [King Gillette Ranch] very particular about who they work with.”
With the new location, the festival hours have been extended and there will be larger venues. Activities such as silent disco, a yoga stage and a wellness lounge were added.
This is the first year the festival is offering camping. Those interested can utilize a 10-by-10-foot area for one camping tent at additional cost.
With how much the event has grown, the founders said they consider safety their most important element.
“Safety is a priority,” Ellis said. “We want to make sure our communities are happy because it is ... a community event.”
Malibu producer Matt Diamond partnered with Ellis and Gilad this year for the festival and has produced events such as the Malibu Guitar Festival.
“I grew up in Malibu my whole life,” Diamond said. “We’ve really integrated in the environment and politics and serving the community of Malibu, and we’re very honored and it’s great to have something for the community.”
This year, Diamond said they’re going to bring in a nonprofit called “Life goes on.”
“This is the biggest and most beautiful festival Malibu’s ever had and all three of us have always wanted to do a festival at this location, so we’re very honored,” he said.
Diamond said they’re hoping to have Senator Henry Stern introduce some of the performers.
“We’re also going to strive to support ... non-plastics and help the environment,” he added. “We really want to support great foundations, the community and the environment.”
Ellis said the festival was created for everyone to enjoy.
“It’s not like a rave or a crazy concert,” said Ellis. “Parents and children and everybody in between, all shapes and sizes and colors of people—it’s a beautiful event from that standpoint and it brings a lot of people together and it gets bigger year after year. That’s the point of the festival is to share the art and build a community and, of course, love.”
CONTEST: The organizers of the 10th annual Reggae on the Mountain festival have offered Malibu Times readers two tickets to the event, which takes place Aug. 17-18.
To enter the drawing, simply send an email with your name, phone number and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All entries must be received by Aug. 9. The winner, who will be chosen at random, will be contacted directly and announced in the Aug. 15 issue.