The Santa Cruz Music Festival has come a long way since the days of being organized in co-founder Brian Crabtree’s living room. Crabtree and Thomas Dawson, as well as a small and vigorously dedicated team, have their own office overlooking Pacific Avenue, and the lineup has swelled from 130 artists in 2015 to well over 250 across two days this year. Headliners for the latest festival, which will be held Feb. 18 and 19 at venues around Santa Cruz include Louis the Child, Troyboi, G Jones, and the Brothers Comatose. That’s how you build a music festival.
They’re staying true to the promise of representing local talent, says Dawson, with 65 to 70 percent of the bands being local. And they’ve got a little bit of everything. “Electro, a little jazz—we don’t have any classical—but rock, metal, hip-hop, reggae, indie rock, acoustic singer/songwriters, Americana, rockabilly stuff, some funk, some goth,” says Dawson. “We’re trying to get as many genres in here as we can.”
There’ll be hip-hopping, dancing, speaking events, food, vendors, a bike party, an app (coming soon), and for those who can’t make the festival in person, KZSC will be broadcasting interviews throughout the weekend. SCMF is stuffed to the gills with something for everyone (and it’s constantly being updated, so check the website for full details). Here are some top picks:
Santa Cruz Speaks: An art, comedy, music and lecture series combo featuring local leaders and professionals discussing the music industry, local community, sustainability, and cannabis science. Speakers include Drew Glover of Project Pollinate, Laurie Egan from Coastal Watershed Council, Santa Cruz Tunes founder Jeffrey Ferrel and so many more. Oh, and it’s free.
2-10 p.m., Saturday & Sunday. Santa Cruz Food Lounge.
Catalyst Main Stage: There are far too many acts to highlight here for this year’s event, but the Catalyst Main Stage has some stellar acts to keep an eye on. They’ll be hosting big names across genres, like future bass duo Louis the Child, house producer Monolink, Americana group the Brothers Comatose, trap music Londoner Troyboi, and local rock ’n’ roll darlings the Coffis Brothers.
Saturday & Sunday, The Catalyst.
Comedy Tour: Got an hour to kill in between sets? Take a chair, grab a beer and get ready for some belly laughs (beware: belly laughs and beer can prove messy). Stand Up Santa Cruz is bringing Comedy Central’s Brendan Lynch (“Notorious for dealing with hecklers … That should be fun,” says Dawson), Chad Opitz of Punchline, Sam Weber, DNA and Emily Catalano—don’t miss her boyfriend jokes and deadpan delivery, it’ll split your sides right open.
Saturday & Sunday at Poet & the Patriot, Rosie McCann’s, Food Lounge, 99 Bottles.
Bike Party: It’s a party for the people and the party, people, don’t stop. There’s something for the kids, the comedy lovers, the boogie-downers and the festivalites, so what about bike folks? Oh yeah, there’s an event for that. Slip into your best salty gear for the pirate-themed costume paaaarrrty (pst … the best-dressed will win two free SCMF tickets) and grab your favorite two-wheeled contraption for Santa Cruz Bike Party ride from downtown to the Westside and back up to San Lorenzo park.
2-4 p.m., Saturday, Depot Park.
Mammatus & Sunday at the Blue: Their newest evolution has been called both proggy and kind of metal, but they aren’t what you’d normally call prog metal. What they’ve deemed “Post Wizard New Mage Far Out Casual” is very, very weird—but in a surprising way that keeps listeners coming back to the psychedelic Santa Cruz natives. Following their set, goth night will take over with The Box for a “very dark and very black” Sunday evening.
8 p.m., Sunday, The Blue Lagoon.
Acoustic at 99 Bottles & Woodstock’s Pizza: While rock group the Bad Light will be holding court at the Poet & the Patriot on Saturday and electro duo M Machine blows up Motiv on Sunday, smoother sounds are taking to 99 Bottles and Woodstock’s Pizza. This year, the beer bastion will be home to all things acoustic with Henry Chadwick from the Coffis Brothers, Hidden Still, and Ruby, My Dear. “The Wild Iris show at 99 Bottles is going to be huge,” says Dawson.
Saturday & Sunday, 99 Bottles.