In the spring of 2014, Greg Golf and his friends hauled a generator to the top of San Luis Obispo’s Cuesta Ridge for a memorable concert.
As they enjoyed rock music and sweeping sunset views, “We realized that SLO needed something like this,” Golf said, specifically a locally focused music festival featuring “multiple bands in an outdoor venue with art and food combined.” And so Shabang was born.
More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the eighth Shabang on Saturday at Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo. In store are live paintings, live reptiles and performances by nine bands, most of them from the Central Coast.
Shabang: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Laguna Lake Park, San Luis Obispo. $5, $7 at the door; $12 shuttle pass; $25 MVP pass.
According to Golf, who’s studying business administration at Cal Poly, Shabang began as a fun way to celebrate a memorable year. He and his friends, Cal Poly agricultural business major Carson Stone and former Cuesta College student Alexander Schwend, came up with the idea early one morning while volunteering at the El Camino Homeless Organization shelter in Atascadero.
“We decided we should have one last shebang to round out the year,” Golf recalled
But that final fling, attended by 30 to 40 people, turned out to be just the beginning. (Although Golf and his friends started out holding concerts at Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area every college quarter, they eventually switched to twice-a-year shindigs on the shores of Laguna Lake.) The fifth Shabang, held in the winter of 2016, attracted 350 people. Last fall’s festival, the seventh overall, drew 1,500 concertgoers.
“It grew more rapidly than we (could have) imagined,” Golf said.
“It’s obvious this is something people want to experience. … Kids who live here drive all over the state of California to attend music festivals,” he explained, but Shabang offers the same thing closer to home. “A lot of people have said it’s defined their college experience.”
This year’s Shabang will feature a bevy of bands serving up a blend of garage, surf, punk and psychedelic sounds that Golf described as “California rock and roll.”
Los Angeles band Cosmonauts leads a lineup that includes Dog Party, William H. Klink and Pancho and the Wizards. Also performing are Runner, Nucklehead, Nat Lefkoff, Rowan McGuire and Rose Toumanian. (With the exception of Klink, McGuire and Toumanian, most of the acts are new to the festival, Golf said.)
Golf noted that local bands rarely get a chance to share their music with sizeable crowds.
“We’re trying to give people a launch pad to sharing their passions in a larger setting,” he said.
Also in store at Shabang are art and entertainment from Marley Thuma, Stephanie Ruesler, AmberLand Origins, Nomadic Artifacts and O’Belly Skelly Art Lab. Festivalgoers can pet Radical Reptiles’ scaly pals, hula hoop with Cal Poly’s Merry Hoopsters or lounge with the Cal Poly Hammock Club.
As in past years, a portion of festival proceeds will benefit a local nonprofit: the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County. (Last fall, Shabang donated $2,000 to ECHO.)
“People end up really feeling like a part of the experience and feel like they’re contributing to something great … just by attending,” Golf said.
Although Shabang’s target demographic is ages 18 to 24, Golf emphasized that it’s open to music lovers of all ages. (Parents of students even receive a special gift — a bandanna — upon entering the festival.)
“In San Luis Obispo, there’s this (divide) between the college kids and the older generation,” he said. “We’re trying to bridge that gap a little bit.”
Shabang’s co-founders will soon belong to that “older generation.” Golf and Stone graduate from Cal Poly this spring, and Schwend has already left school to work at Morro Bay Landing.
Although Golf doesn’t know what the future holds, he’s sure of one thing: Shabang will return to San Luis Obispo in the fall.
2 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Laguna Lake Park, San Luis Obispo
$5, $7 at the door; $12 shuttle pass; $25 MVP pass