Welcome to Shabang: The San Luis Obispo Music Festival Returns
The Shabang Live Music and Arts Festival has returned to Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo after a nearly two-year hiatus. The five stages drew around 4,000 guests on Friday and 9,000 on Saturday, along with 40 performers from across the country.
The first Shabang was fired in 2014 by four Cal Poly students and was illegally held atop Cuesta Ridge. According to Shabang public relations specialist Nikki Morgan, it featured only local acts and was a way for the founders to bring home shows to a larger scale.
“They just started to realize that there were so many more people who were interested in creating a music festival that’s grounded in Central Coast culture, and brings in super cool music and experiences. incredible to the people of San Luis Obispo and the general California public,” Morgan said.
Now legally held, this Shabang was held overlooking Lake Laguna and the surrounding hills and featured headliners like TV Girl, STRFKR, Walker and Royce and The Knocks.
The main stage, named the Lake Laguna Stage, was located on the waterfront of Lake Laguna and decorated in red, orange, and purple colors. Crowds gathered to watch Tropa Magica, Levitation Room, Hot Flash Heat Wave, Strange Case, Dante Marsh and the Vibesetters, The Hip Abduction and Post Animal acts.
TV Girl, Neil Frances and STRFKR headlined the Laguna Lake stage to close out the festival nights, with TV Girl on Friday and Neil Frances and STRFKR on Saturday night.
Funk Safari was one of the electronic dance music (EDM)-based stages, featuring jungle leaves and a painted bull skull. The stage has consistently drawn large crowds with performers like Walker and Royce, The Knocks and Miss Dre.
The Hush House Silent Disco was the second EDM attraction, inspired by San Luis Obispo’s house show culture. To enter, guests crossed the front of a house and took a helmet. There were two live DJ sets that could be listened to from the privacy of the participant’s personal headphones.
The Cuesta Ridge stage was home to many Cal Poly student-led bands and drew crowds of those who weren’t afraid to kick up some dust dancing to their favorite local bands. Bands Couch Dog, Swede and Skogen, The Bogeys and Honeyboys performed at this point alongside fellow California artists Creative Differences, The Charities, Uncle Uncle, The Bash Dogs and Spooky Mansion.
KCPR caught up with Uncle Uncle, a rock band from Santa Barbara, who said after three years of preparation, they were thrilled to perform on the Cuesta Ridge stage.
“The energy is really good…we’re thrilled to be on a stage like this,” said drummer Nick Fields. “We’ve been playing in dark, damp rooms and that’s a nice change.”
Shabang is also a great opportunity to get exposure given the variety of tastes and genres present, said lead guitarist Christian Edstrom.
“It’s probably one of the biggest audiences, if not the biggest, we’ve played in front of, so that’s really cool,” Edstrom said.
Another band performing on the Cuesta Stage was the Creative Differences band from Huntington Beach. Lead singer Ryan Petersen said it was “crazy” to see the festival come to fruition after months of hard work.
Although his allergies were triggered by grass and wind, drummer Larson McDonald said he enjoyed the park’s climate and scenery.
“It’s me and [the bassist, Aidan’s] first music festival, we’ve never even been there, so we’re excited to play one,” McDonald said.
Art and vendors
Hammocks bask among the trees as artists set up their painting supplies and artwork – ranging from traditional canvas paintings to murals done on wooden doors – along the base of the tree trunks . Throughout the festival, artists could be spotted creating real-time artwork in this space.
One of the live performers was local artist Amanda Berger, who said she had been visiting Shabang for many years. She painted a large crocodile to hang in her house.
“It’s literally so much fun,” Berger said. “I’m so happy to be able to sit here and paint.”
Between the University and Laguna Lake stages was another art garden filled with canvas paintings, drawings, graphics, and sculptures hung from trees or displayed in booths.
Along with the music and art exhibits, vendors of clothes, artworks and accessories were located in the festival shopping area named Shabang Marketplace.
Eclectic festival clothing from vendors such as Milk Room and All In Onesie were available, along with Wook earrings, a vendor selling earrings that doubled as earplugs to protect festival-goers’ hearing while allowing them to remain elegant.
Screen printing clothing company, Thirty by Thirty, had an interactive TV next to its shop where people could watch themselves being recorded, explore the trippy visuals and effects, play video games or just relax.
Another seller, Maria Kate Art, sold jewelry, hand mirrors, hair clips, stickers and more. She said her experience as a seller was great given the support from the Shabang team and the friendliness of the buyers.
“I went to Shabang when it was a baby festival…so it’s really cool to be here when it blows up,” she said. “Full circle moment.”
Festival-goers were greeted by a wooden arch that spelled “Shabang” and three giant puffy mushrooms that stood near the entrance, providing shade for guests to stretch out on blankets and socialize.
The event featured multiple contributions from Cal Poly students: student bands performed along the festival lineup and as well as structures that originally featured in the program’s design village. Cal Poly 2022 architecture.
Ellie Untalan, a second-year architectural engineering student, said she likes to get out of the classroom to enjoy the music.
Having been to Outside Lands, Untalan said she didn’t know as many artists in Shabang, but felt the environment was similar seeing people she knew and dressing up.
“[Shabang] brings together many local artists and the community appreciates and supports many local artists,” Untalan said.
Shabang University was an area of the event that hosted interactive workshops –– ranging from dance, yoga, speed dating, health and self-love –– taught by locals.
Intimacy coach Rory Adele taught ‘sex magick’ at the college stage – an ancient teaching focused on embodying one’s desires. She said she thought the crowd of people enjoyed it.
Students, fans and performers strolled through the pop-up clothing and art shops, watched aerials hanging from silks and rings and wandered from stage to stage to see the performers occur.
Environmental Engineering Junior Julia Loew said she particularly liked the set-up and design of the festival. She also liked the ability to switch between the variety of music genres on offer.
“SLO is such a magical little place, in my opinion, and so we have this little music festival that started here, was born here, and is slowly growing,” Loew said. “It’s so wonderful because I think any reason to have more people in SLO is a good reason, especially to enjoy good music and fun times with good people.”