Believe it or not, Summer Fun on the 101 -- Leucadia's annual free music festival -- basically began in 2010 as a spiritual awakening for one Michael Schmitt.
"I was walking around, just enraptured with this funky old surf town I’d fallen in love with and how beautiful the vibe was," Schmitt, the festival's creative director and mastermind, told SoundDiego. "I started strumming this lovely little two-chord phrase on my ukulele and had an epiphany. I decided right then and there to dedicate myself to throwing a surf music festival in Leucadia. 'Wayne's World 2' may have also been a factor. About 10 minutes later, I met Artie Mattson who told me about her twin sons’ jazz band [the Mattson 2] and I took that as a sign. Year one, I used Kickstarter and flew without permits and year two, I convinced the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association to partner with me. We legitimized. Now, I’m on the L101 board of directors. The rest is history. It’s a celebration of Leucadia."
That history continues to grow. This Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26, marks the fest's seventh incarnation and it's safe to say it's become bigger and better with each passing year. While it kicks off on Saturday at Leucadia's Roadside Park with an all-day show featuring 10 bands, Sunday gets the entire business community involved with a music walk that taps 16 acts set to play at several different locations along North Coast Highway 101.
Raffles, art displays, fun contests and a beer garden (for adults, of course) contribute to the all-encompassing laidback vibe and helps to accomplish the event's main goal: Raising money for music education in Encinitas. Last year, they gave $500 scholarships to two hard-working San Dieguito Academy students and are hoping the amount is even more this year. It's something, Schmitt said, that they're continuously working toward.
"We had a small but enthusiastic crowd the first few years. It did take a couple tries to do better than breaking even. Free festivals are difficult. But I’ve never been disappointed with the turnout and it grows every year."
The event's 2016 lineup is one after our own hearts, with some of our local favorites included. On Saturday, the big Roadside Park concert features Sacri Monti, Ocelot, Birdy Bardot (a SoundDiego Record Club inductee), Second Cousins (who're also in our Record Club), Montalban Quintet, the Casey Hensley Band, David J (formerly of Bauhaus, and Love and Rockets) and others. Pro tip from Schmitt: "Sacri Monti, Monarch and Ocelot are going to be red hot. Grab your ear plugs though because they are loud and tinnitus is a terrible thing."
Sunday continues with bands performing at Encinitas locales along the 101, which include Priority Public House, 454 Tattoo & Body Piercing, Ducky Waddles, Lou's Records and more. Scheduled performers include the Gloomies, Monarch, the Mattson 2, Inspired and the Sleep, Heather Nation and more. Seems like you can't throw a rock without hitting one of San Diego's finest bands (but please don't throw rocks).
According to the 32-year-old Schmitt -- who's been involved in nearly every operational role at some point or another for the event (promotion, booking, administration, stage manager, etc) -- putting on Summer Fun on the 101 every year is completely worth it, even though it's a ton of work and a lot of sleepless nights.
"There's nothing as awesome to me as hearing from local families about how much they love and look forward to the event every year...So long as Encinitas keeps giving me world-class talents to promote, I will keep doing my part in giving them a great community event to rock. I’ve been to plenty of large festivals in my life, but nothing really compares to big talents in a small, intimate setting. I get to make that happen every year. It’s magical."
Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow; plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King; and runs the music-equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.