An interview by Julie Horner with Stephen Wyman, co-producer of the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival.
JH: This has become a major outdoor festival for the area so how did you get into it?
SW: Ironically. I’ve been volunteering with Redwood Mountain Faire since its rebirth at Roaring Camp. And as one the owners of the Boulder Creek Brewery, I was interested in producing events that would help drive our business forward. And in broader terms, events that would help bring economic vitality to our community. Fill restaurants, fill motels, hire local folks, local food vendors, and provide artists with an outlet.
JH: How are you able to attract such amazing performers to the event?
SW: Michael Horne is the genius of the business partnership. He’s been a Santa Cruz promoter for over 30 years and has presented more than 3,000 shows! It is very complicated to put great lineups together, so it’s his years of relationships with musicians and agents.
JH: You’ve got Edward Sharpe, George Clinton, and Sheila E at the top of a really impressive lineup of artists.
SW: We have certain artists whom we truly admire and hope to bring to the Santa Cruz Mountains, artists that we and our community have a connection to. We try to bring a blend of classic and new artists. We consider the venue and our neighbors. Although we can’t make everyone happy, we try to be considerate.
JH: Name some of the acts that you’re especially excited to have on board this year.
SW: That’s a loaded question, because every artist we book is a favorite for one reason or another. This year we were inspired by the loss of Prince. We talked lots about the influence he had on music and culture. And we also dug deeper in our discussions like who influenced Prince and how he was so into the 1970’s Bay Area music scene. He came to SF in 1978 to record in the studio used by Santana and other Bay Area greats. Sheila E.‘s dad, Pete Escovedo, was playing in Santana’s band at the time. So this led us to invite Sheila E. and Katdelic and to ask George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. George Clinton is an icon and we feel the chance to share is now – George Clinton turned 75 this year!
JH: I would imagine the variety of music will appeal to all age groups. What have you got for the younger scene?
SW: On Saturday we have Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They headlined Coachella this year and had a sold out show this spring at the Greek theater in Berkeley. They should bring some concert goers to Felton who haven’t visited our valley before. And I think folks my age will have a treat in discovering this kind of artist.
JH: It must be an enormous task transforming a quiet mountain meadow into an outdoor good-love-and-vibrations festival space.
SW: Aside from the monetary considerations, there are so many details to contend with. Routing, logistics, travel, backline, staging, etc. Multiply this by every artist timeslot over the course of the weekend and you start to get an idea of the juggling job that is required.
JH: How does the venue at Roaring Camp suit the event, do people just love it?
SW: We love Roaring Camp. It’s an amazing space. There is the beautiful meadow, parking, and some infrastructure. Attendees having been glowing about the festival. We have 4.9 stars out of 5. We’re working on the missing fraction! Roaring Camp and its director have been supportive: Roaring Camp is keenly interested in supporting economic vitality in the valley.
JH: More people than ever seem to be falling in love with summer festivals and I hear Mountain Sol is attracting more peeps! You guys must be feeling pretty stoked!
SW: We are steadily growing. It’s our third year. That’s like Wednesday in the festival business. We’re trying hard to get to the weekend.
JH: What makes the Sol Fest so wonderful?
SW: Our event is a boutique festival. It’s small compared to most music festivals. It’s intimate. Everyone is close to the stage. Festival goers feel a direct connection to the artists and to their community. You’re not looking at a giant live video screen. You are there and in it.
JH: So this festival is all ages and locally do-able.
SW: Named by many of our fans as “the hometown throw down,” it’s more like a community party. We see our neighbors and friends there. People are generally kind and thoughtful – watching out for each other. We attract a wide range of guests: Local families, couples, and college-age young adults.
JH: What can festival goers expect from this year’s festival as far as good vibes, food, and things to purchase?
SW: In addition to our amazing artist lineup, there will be local food vendors, artists, a kid’s area, and of course train rides!
JH: What would you advise people to bring with them?
SW: Bring a hat, refillable water bottles (free filtered water is available), ear plugs for the kids if you’re bringing young children, a designated driver…NO drinking and driving! No, no, no! Low back folding chairs and blankets are allowed but please no dogs and no bad attitudes. DO bring smiles, an open heart, and dancing shoes!
JH: I was at last year’s festival and had such a relaxing, boogie-filled uplifting time! What makes you the happiest about putting on the Sol Fest?
SW: When folks in the community stop me to tell me what wonderful time they had!
Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival September 17-18, 2016 Roaring Camp Meadows. Felton, California 95018 On Facebook: www.facebook.com/scmsfest
Copyright 2016 Julie Horner