Why Not in Laguna?

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The founder of SongCheck Live says Laguna Beach should have its own folk/Americana music festival. –By Matt Russell

 As a Laguna Beach native who is both the son of an artist and active in the music world, I have a unique understanding of the true soul of this town—a soul hewn from the many talented artists and musicians who call Laguna Beach home. It is my belief that a folk/Americana music festival would awaken and inspire old and new residents and visitors alike to remember what makes this town so special.

I remember a time when cows ran free in the canyon; when my friends and I rode our motorcycles through the dusty Honda Hills (now Alta Laguna Park); and when you could look out from Top of the World Elementary and see only sporadic ranch lights all the way to Saddleback Mountain. This town was founded on music and art. It is an artist colony.

Why not bring a new music festival to Laguna Beach?

Imagine it: a three-day folk/Americana music festival at the Laguna Beach Dog Park on Memorial Day weekend, just before the construction for the Sawdust Art Festival begins. It would be an opportunity for local artists to make a name for themselves, a reason for touring national bands to make a stop in Laguna who might not otherwise.

Other cities in south Orange County boast successful festivals, like Doheny Days in Dana Point and the jazz festival in San Juan Capistrano. Of course, Laguna has an excellent weeklong classical music festival in February and the much loved live summer “Music in the Park” concert series at Bluebird Park. But the folk/Americana festival I am proposing fills the void left by these other local music festivals.

Picture the dog park flanked by two stages on either side of the field—families of music-lovers milling about, picnicking on the grass, opportunities for local restaurateurs to serve food from their booths, and a beer garden tucked within the apportioned “small dog” fence area.

As the owner of a German shepherd named Hope and a frequent patron of the dog park, I can only begin to imagine the work it would take to make this dream a reality. We would need the support of residents and businesses in the area, the surrounding community and the Friends of Laguna Beach Dog Park who have worked so hard to make it what it is. With everyone on the same page, we could then approach city staff and the Planning Commission to discuss the project and logistics, such as parking, shuttle buses, timing, health codes, et cetera.

The folk/Americana music festival will be a win for all. It will create opportunities for local jobs. The local restaurants and businesses will benefit from more visitors. Part of the proceeds from the festival could also be used to improve the dog park and support the homeless shelter.

Some longtime residents may remember the 1970 “Happening” in Laguna Canyon when a group of hippies organized a grassroots music festival with no budget and no experience. It went down in history. Imagine the kind of history that could be made with the resources and support of the entire city. As a filmmaker and producer, I have worked with local artists such as Nicole Vaughn and Her Lovely Band (awarded Best Americana at the OC Music Awards) who have played festivals in Trabuco Canyon, Ojai and elsewhere. But they haven’t played in Laguna Beach. Not yet. There are plenty of local musicians—young and old—pioneering the folk/Americana revival. Let’s give them a place to share their music with us. Let’s make this city famous for its music once again. LBM

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