Santa Cruz Music Festival Gets Lit Despite Damp Conditions
By: 🦊 Isiah Kurz - 02.13.18 Photography By: 🐉 Diana Lustig

The Kusheen crew had the pleasure of attending the Santa Cruz Music Festival this past weekend. While there was a plethora of sights and sounds to write about, we thought we’d keep things simple with an artist-by-artist breakdown of some of our favorite acts. For a full review of the festival itself, scroll to the bottom.

Sakred G
We arrived too early on day one of SCMF. The weather was damp and dour, which seemed to shrink the crowd size for the daytime events. Sure, there were a few people in tie-dye sweatshirts trying to get lit outside the Bounce Stage in Lorenzo Park, but it never got rowdy.

Ditto for the silent disco off Copper Street. Then again, a small crowd can still be a passionate one. A handful of kandi kids, breakdancers and at least one hooper threw down to Sakred G’s silent disco set. The music was wook-y as hell, with plenty of space-bass beats and experimental trap to dance to.

Passersby stopped to gawk and giggle; scanning the audience with their camera phones. It reminded me of something Motion Potion (Robbie Kowal) once said, “If you don’t look stupid dancing to silent disco, you aren’t doing it right.”

Sacha Robotti
We headed over to Motiv to take in Sacha Robotti, our favorite sloth in the Dirtybird gang. The small venue quickly filled with eager fans decked out in DB merch. The set was lively and fun. The only thing more animated than the music was the crowd. Every foot was in club was stomping and every booty grooving.

Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage

After Sacha Robotti we headed over to the Civic Auditorium to see Justin Jay’s live band, the Fantastic Voyage. Justin Jay came onto the the stage beaming a smile at everyone in the audience. His band members, similarly, seemed joyful and at ease. The crowd gleeful soaked up every track, from “Home” to “You Give Me Butterflies”.

Oliver Tree

But the real party was Oliver Tree. I am of the opinion that Tree is a genius – the special kind of genius that finds the fine line where nerdy meets cool.

Tree dons a bowl haircut, red sunglasses and a windbreaker as if he were some overgrown kindergartener. Riding onto the stage with his iconic scooter and toy boombox, Tree jumped around the stage like a madman singing songs about LA, money and mindfulness. No one can match his stage presence.

Yes, Tree is the avatar of his own personality. Leaving the stage he told the crowd, “You can do anything you want, as long as you believe it can happen and work hard to make it happen.” We only hope we can embody one-tenth of his confidence and charisma.


Closing out Saturday night was K?D. While his name might read “kid,” he was all business. His head tilted downward towards the decks, and his face completely obscured by his grey cap. Sure, he was less energetic on stage relative to Tree, but the tracks he laid down were anything be subdued.

Every single track, was a bass-in-your-face heavy hitter. Audience members couldn’t get enough of this – literally. We’re talking people with their heads in the speakers! Smiling as they soaked up the deafening delights.


On day two, we decided to show up late to save our energy for Sunday’s sets. Particularly for CharlestheFirst, and he did not disappoint. Song after lush song, Charles entranced the audiences into a psychedelic dream state. People didn’t dance, they vibrated to the essence of his music. The on-stage visuals combined the mystical and the magnificent, which really tied the whole experience together.


You are probably tired hearing us glow about CloZee, but today will be no exception. CloZee was amazing! It was a departure from the very first time we saw her on stage in 2015. She came alive on stage and really interacted with the audience, pointing at fans and dancing along. She was all energy, which made for some great photos.

She played all her hits including “Koto” and her “Baiana” remix. Without a doubt, one of our favorite CloZee sets.


One last addition to the list is Mija. The mood changed almost immediate as she got on stage. The Civic Auditorium went dark. Her music matched the room, but was a spirited, electro set. And her face, shaded in darkness, bobbed to the beat of her own tunes.

The Kusheen clan has seen Mjia on several occasions – and it’s always a surprise. Maybe that’s why she lead the recent “FK A Genre” tour. Mija defies expectations. You never know what you are going to get. But no matter what, she’s bound to entertain.

SCMF Pros & Cons
In summation, SCMF did a stellar job. The musical acts were killer, and the lines for the venues were swift and painless. Although, we’re sure the weather play a role in this.

But that doesn’t mean everything was perfect. In reality, there are some issues with the whole concept of a downtown music festival. For instance, we tried to take in a few talks and classes, but they kind of seemed like an afterthought that was roped into the festival, rather than something that fit.

Also, the venues were far enough apart that we didn’t feel the need to visit each one. Nor was this necessary since most of our favorite artists were in the Civic Auditorium. Which makes us wonder, why have a full festival? Why not just have a handful of artists play a single venue?

It seems obvious that Santa Cruz is attempting to host an Outside Lands-like experience without having the space to do it. Because of this, you lose some of the community aspect most festivals are known for. The people around you might be a festival goer – or they could be a tourist or a weekend shopper. There’s really no way to tell.

Then again, that might be the appeal. Santa Cruz is a weird town in the best of ways. Why wouldn’t a music festival try to include all the diverse aspects of the area? Perhaps the festival gives back to the shops downtown. Maybe the free events are a way of giving back to the community. These seem like noble ideas, but it still left us wondering.

So while we think SCMF put on a very enjoyable experience, it still seems more clunky and cumbersome than necessary. But don’t let that turn you off to the experience. Kusheen recommends that you visit the next SCMF and make your own determination.

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