This year’s DIO Fest brings out Santa Cruz’s best for Camp Krem
Stevee Stubblefield is sitting in the Poet & the Patriot, one red ale deep, explaining the importance of music as a tool—and giving me a history lesson, too. More to the point, he’s screaming a punk rock song his teacher Mr. Reynolds taught him in the eighth grade.
“The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it’s a treaty we all should know! In the war with Mexico!” Stubblefield sings, as he pantomimes drums in the air.
Ten years later, Stubblefield, who’s organizing the second annual Do-It-Ourselves Festival, April 25-27, still remembers the words.
The point Stubblefield’s making is that music moves us, and opens up new pathways in the brain, spurring new ways of thinking. That’s why Stubblefield and his friends decided to make this year’s mostly Americana-music-themed DIO Festival at Camp Krem a fundraiser for the camp’s music enrichment program. Stubblefield has seen the power of music at Camp Krem firsthand.
Stubblefield, also the mandolin player for the North Pacific String Band, was spending a day at the mountain getaway for kids with disabilities in March when he noticed an autistic kid named Patrick hanging out on the outskirts of the camp, pacing around. Stubblefield played some Wii with him, and talked to him for a few seconds. Then later that night, when Stubblefield picked up a guitar to play “This Little Light of Mine” at a jam session, something magical happened.
“He was in the middle of the circle, dancing and smiling and talking. You could see a huge improvement in terms of his socialization and how he was behaving with other campers,” Stubblefield says.
The music therapy program at Camp Krem works something like that, but at a more complex level. Thanks to a small grant, the camp bought some instruments and hired a music therapist, who helped camp staffers create a music curriculum designed to help special needs children in the same way Stubblefield’s acoustic guitar loosened up Patrick.
It comes full circle when this weekend’s DIO Fest brings out some of the Santa Cruz music scene’s most popular artists to help raise funds for Camp Krem’s new program, which will include a music teacher for the summer.
“Music is something we all have the ability to relate to. It’s a common language we can all understand,” says Stubbenfield’s friend and fellow DIO organizer Jonathan LaBeaud, a former Camp Krem counselor. “You don’t have to speak. You just have to listen. The big thing is using this as a catalyst for thinking of more inclusive ways of working with people with disabilities. I think that separatist thinking is of the past.”
The three-day camping festival kicks off Friday, April 25 with 21 bands, including Dan P. & the Bricks, Marty O’Reilly, North Pacific String Band and a reunion of Birdhouse. Remaining tickets are $99 and selling quickly.
In some ways, this year’s festival is an upgrade from last year when the idea started as a going-away party for LaBeaud before the counselor left California. For his part, LaBeaud had decided North Pacific String Band’s quirky flavor of jazz- and rock-infused bluegrass music would fit nicely at the camp just down the road from Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
“Instead of it being a going-away party, it turned into this big music festival,” Stubblefield says.
Then in January of 2013, with no planning done, they realized they had their work cut out for them. “We decided we would do it about three months out, which most people would say is crazy. Last year was just ‘let’s see if we can make this happen—see if people believe in it, if people buy tickets,’” Stubblefield says.
Sound crews, event staff and portable toilets all have to get booked a couple months in advance, and festival organizers had to constantly make sure that all volunteers are on the same page. With tickets last year starting at $30 a pop, prices were just enough to cover festival expenses, and pay the bands who asked for compensation.
This year, organizers are paying bands a nominal flat rate. LaBeaud, who’s flying back to Santa Cruz for a visit, has been helping Stubblefield plan the festival for the past three months from his new home in Florida, talking to Stubblefield for more than 10 hours a week on the phone.
Stubblefield says the hard work pays off when it provides music to those who need it most.
“It doesn’t matter how cool your festival is if you don’t have a ‘why.’ Last year, why were we doing this? To see if we can. Then we found out we could, so we needed a new ‘why,’” Stubblefield says. “What better purpose than right in our backyard?”
DIO Fest 2014 will be presented April 25-27 at Camp Krem in Boulder Creek. Three-day passes are $99; info at diofest.com.