Adventure Time at Carlsbad Music Festival

The annual Carlsbad Music Festival boasts an impressive array of adventurous acts

If there’s one thing North County continually gets right, it’s their community music festivals. Fresh off the heels of the annual Summer Fun on the 101 and Village Music Walk (both of which boasted impressive lineups), the Carlsbad Music Festival -- now in its 13th year -- returns to the coastal city on Aug. 26-28.

The yearly Friday-through-Sunday event offers a truly eclectic lineup of more than 40 acts spanning a gamut of musical styles and genres ranging from electronic and indie-rock to classical, chamber orchestral and world music to avant-garde jazz, folk, blues and pop. Naturally, there will also be a beer garden, food trucks and an artisan market for patrons on the lookout for more than just musical treats.

Each day features both a bevy of free shows at a few different locations around Carlsbad Village (St. Michael’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, the parking lot at State Street and Grand Avenue, Giacoletti Music, and Magee Park Heritage Park), and ticketed performances on the main stage held at St. Michael’s by Matt McBane (the festival’s founder and artistic director) and wild Up on Friday; Pascal Le Bouef, LA Percussion Quartet, wild Up (again) and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith on Saturday; and Hocket, Richard Valitutto, Justin Aronson, gnarwhallaby and Namad Trio on Sunday.

Not to be outdone, the free shows that run all day long have tapped some of the best and brightest bands that San Diego and North County have to offer -- including Inspired and the Sleep, Taken By Canadians, the Lulls (who should be signed by now), Trouble in the Wind (who've released one of the best albums of the year), the Dapper Bandits, Paper Days, the Gift Machine, the Red Fox Tails, and G Burns Jug Band (among many others).

Max Greenhalgh, vocalist/bassist in Inspired and the Sleep (who’ve performed at CMF for the last four years), explained why the multi-day shindig is so fun.

“Well, we grew up here and it's been a local highlight for some time. It’s very family-friendly and accepting to all sorts of genres. We also get paired up with a lot of our friends’ bands -- Taken By Canadians are playing right before us this year and they're super homies. Pretty pumped that I was able to recommend the Lulls and get them on there as well!”

For a festival that bills itself as “adventurous music by the beach,” it caters to more than just the casual music fan. Diehard jazz fans and experimental-leaning orchestral enthusiasts get their fair share too. Bringing all of it together is what makes it so special.

“Honestly, I'd say it's always been like that,” Greenhalgh told me. “When we first played there, I thought our music would be a little ‘out there’ compared to everything else -- but I think everyone's very accepting. We'll have grandparents watching and the little kids dance the most.”

When asked if it’s a good opportunity for a local band to possibly showcase their music to a new crowd and gain more fans, Greenhalgh agreed and emphasized the communal nature of the acts involved -- especially since a lot of them are homegrown in the area.

“I'd say it's a great way to gather or maintain a good local following. I mean, North County does have a bit of a scene despite the lack of venues. For instance, Trouble in the Wind: They're great friends of ours and I'd consider them the Carlsbad band and they headline the fest every year. So when you go to see them at CMF, it's always a great gathering of friends and family.”

Inspired and the Sleep -- who play Friday (Aug. 26) at 9 p.m. at the State and Grand parking lot -- are also stoked on another thing: They actually get paid. Unsurprisingly (if you’ve been following music trends over the last 20 years), there are several outdoor festivals in town that neglect to pay the performing artists. It’s an issue that the festival's organizers do their best to remedy.

According to their mission statement, the festival is organized by a nonprofit organization “that aims to engage and inspire local, national, and international communities of composers, performers, creators, and concert-goers through world-class performances of adventurous music.” And while CMF receives funding from the City of Carlsbad, the County of San Diego and private foundations, public donations are still their biggest source of funding -- and a way for them to pay the artists involved. So they’ve started up a Kickstarter to raise $10,000 to help pay for expenses. If you’re inclined to help out, go here.

Either way, it’s just another example of why the festival has become such a community institution. Year after year, it brings folks together around incredible music performances in gorgeous settings -- that’s hard to beat.

Greenhalgh summed it up best: “If you’ve never been to Carlsbad Village, I'd say it's a wonderful opportunity explore a beautiful area, take in a whole lot of tunes, and make some new friends.”

For the full lineup, more information and tickets, visit the official Carlsbad Music Festival website.

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.

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