SOL Mountain Fest 2021: Day One

Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival kicked off Day One of the two-day festival on Saturday, September 18th under the beautiful redwoods at Felton’s Roaring Camp, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Gates opened at 11am with the first band, Wolf Jett, on the stage at noon. The festival initially sold out weeks before due to limited parking, but last minute festival promoters were able to add more tickets by shuttling in guests from a location nearby. Guests also had the chance to purchase a train ticket which included shuttle by, yes, you guessed it, the historical steam train that runs from Felton through the Santa Cruz Mountains down to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk.

The lucky guests who arrived early were able to snag a spot in the shade under the massive oak tree in the center of the field and/or check out many of the amazing artisan vendors, like clothing and handmade jewelry, in addition to all the great food and drinks that were available throughout the park.

There was even a short guided yoga session to kick off the festival with good vibes and intentions.

At noon, local six-piece folk soul and blues band Wolf Jett got the party started, playing songs from their new debut self-titled album. Band leader Chris Jones had amazing chemistry with vocalist Laura Lewis, which was really captivating to watch. Next up, after a short break for concert guests to get some food and use the bathroom, was Rising Appalachia on the main stage just across the field. Master world percussionist Biko Casini’s signature drum beat grew with anticipation, as members of the band made their way to the stage and picked up their instruments. Yet, something seemed off. Chloe Smith, co-founder of band, took up the microphone and in a very serious and sincere way and with her introduction let the audience know that her sister and fellow co-founder of Rising Appalachia, Leah Song, could not be with us for the show today, because she was sick with COVID… but, THE SHOW MUST GO ON. To help fill in the gaps, the band brought friend and fellow multi-instrumentalist Lydia Violet to help on harmonies and fiddle. Band member’s Duncan Wickel and David Brown helped fill in Leah’s parts too, including with harmonies and banjo. Though Leah was very much missed, it was still a fun set with a lot of love and positive intention that I think the crowd also picked up on and enjoyed. All in all, it was a good dose of musical medicine. Get well soon, Leah!

At a quarter to four on the other stage, after another quick break, Dustbowl Revival came out with an upbeat folk-funk set, which had guests dancing all over. It was the perfect opener for Michael Franti & Spearhead, who was up right after on the main stage at 5 o’clock. If you’ve never seen a Michael Franti & Spearhead show before, there is really nothing quite like it… it is hard to put into words. From beginning to end, it is nothing but a party. Several times throughout the set, Franti will enter the crowd and sing and dance with guests, while lead guitarist J Bowman’s nonstop smiling is infectious. A highlight of the set was when they played a new song written during lockdown that required audience participation in the form of a dance. It went something like this:

“Life’s amazing.” (Put both hands in the air.) “Then it sucks.” (Put hands down.) “Then, it’s amazing again.” (Put both hands in the air, but wiggle your fingers.) The song repeats and the crowd was loving it; all hands were in the air as far as the eye could see. Thank you to the bands and promoters for putting on such a fun and positive event!

Photography by Katey Schoenberger

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