A Preview: Pt. Reyes’ Far West Fest Is a Huge Model for Pint-sized Festivals
For the last six years, my husband Dave and I have been involved in a funky little homegrown festival called the Far West Fest in Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. For us, it’s a great way to get back to our theatrical roots while helping to support live music. We have stage-managed at least one of the three stages and been involved in set-up, if not the overall planning, for the last six years. This insider knowledge has given us a really comprehensive overview of the entire festival. This little festival is a hidden gem that rivals much larger events in quality of entertainment and so many other things. The Far West Fest’s commitment to putting on a stellar, community focused, environmentally friendly, zero-waste event where proceeds benefit local charities and radio, should serve as a model for smaller festivals everywhere.
John Doe of X goes a little bit country (all photos credit Shelley Champine)
The premise is simple: Book a mix of incredibly talented down-to-Earth musicians from both local and regionally touring bands that keep the multi-generational, musically savvy, slightly hippie crowd happy all day on a fenced-in baseball diamond. It does help that Pt. Reyes, just just 30 miles north of San Francisco, is “West Coast oyster heaven” and the home of phenomenal artisanal cheeses, and has fine craft breweries at its fingertips. But, honestly, this could be Anytown, U.S.A.
The music is top notch. Former regional acts have included the Pimps of Joytime, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, Camper Van Beethoven, New Monsoon, Hot Buttered Rum, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Vinyl, John Doe, Get Set Go!, Lyrics Born, Sean Hayes, The Mother Hips, Monophonics!, New Mastersounds, Zion I, Jazz Mafia, The Sam Chase, Shotgun Wedding Quintet, Zigaboo Modeliste and more.
Honey Island Swamp Band – Bayou Americana from New Orleans
New Monsoon – Guitar virtuosity — rock, World fusion with jazz and Latin themes, and strong vocals and harmonies
Locura – Rock, funk with Latin rhythms, heavy-weight female vocals
The Seshen – Female-fronted, urban electronic R&B
Grateful Bluegrass Boys – Hot Buttered Rum Side Project
Grease Traps – Hard-driving funk, Afro-funk and soul-jazz
In addition to these larger acts, there has always been a wide array of smaller acts, up-and-coming talent, and entertainment for kids in the Kidz Zone. Even if you’ve never heard of these bands before, you’re not going to be disappointed.
This festival is serious about being green and proves it can be done. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their own refillable water bottle (no bottled water is sold) and ride bikes or public transport to get a freebie of beer or a cookie. Food and beverage vendors are local purveyors of organic, sustainable offerings including oysters, fresh produce, grass-fed meats, and baked goods. Gourmet food trucks, powered by bio-diesel line the perimeter with everything from spicy curry to fried green tomatoes. Hand painted informative signs keep the place looking down to earth while avoiding plastics and printing. At least one of the larger stages is generally powered by solar or clean burning ultra-efficient bio fuel and compost & recycle bins are stationed at every turn. This eco-friendly footprint is super easy to duplicate with a bit of forethought and planning.
Rather than try to really put in words how fabulous the day is, I’m going to show my Instagram gallery from the last two years:
This crazy contraption burns clean wood chip fuel to power the main stage.
Hand painted signs are charming and green.
Bands like this all banjo tribute to Warren Hellman led by Grandpa Banana warm up back stage.
The colorful crowd fills in.
Proceeds from the day ($250K in 9 years) benefit the local non-profit radio station and youth programs.
Kids frolic and enjoy the creative arts.
The legendary Zigaboo Modeliste poses with some young fans backstage.
Even teenagers dare to be seen here.
MC Radioactive & Shinbone clown around backstage.
La Gente burn up the East Stage with their spicy Latin flavor.
Lebo and Friends includes the Marin’s prodigy the young Matt Jaffe on guitar.
This sweet stage featured Matt Jaffe and his full band the Distractions.
This is us – uh – stage managing.
Producers Jim & Christina put their heart and soul into this every year!
I hope to add to this collection with more photos and videos. Stay tuned for a wrap-up post after July 26 or just follow me on Instagram @LMVMarin. If you happen to be in NorCal next Saturday, stop in and say hi!
~ Shelley Champine
No Depression Community Manager