If you think the concert promotion company called (((folkYEAH!!!))) brings in a lot of aging hippies with acoustic guitars and banjos…you know, folk music…forget it.
The independent company brings in some of the biggest known and best unknown but soon to be known bands anywhere.
The name came to independent promoter Britt Govea, 48, who has been doing Bay Area shows for 18 years, because of the response people had to him when he told them of his latest booking– “Fuck Yeah,” they’d say.
But he needed something more age-friendly. He’s a family guy with a 9-year-old son and a proud mother. Thus folkYEAH was born.
And, yes, he books singer/songwriters, but he also booked the Red Hot Chili Peppers to play plugged in to 300 people at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. He booked the classic English band, the Zombies, to play the 500-seat San Francisco venue, the Chapel.
He produced a show by David Crosby and another time got Neil Young to play along with his then wife, Pegi, in Big Sur. He’s had indie darlings, Fleet Foxes, the heavy San Francisco electronic band, Brightblack Morning Light, two Santa Cruz shows by Los Lobos, including one on New Year’s Eve. And then, some performers everyone knows, including Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Beck and Arcade Fire.
He’s got the booking cred, doing some 300 shows a year, albeit, fairly quietly. He’s no Bill Graham, stepping into the spotlight, but he books shows based on the music he loves–unlike too many other promoters who book based mostly on ticket sales and the bottom line.
“A music lover is behind this 100 percent,” says the owner of 6000 vinyl records and 5000 CDs. “More than anyone with financial aspirations, I bring the music I’m into and that we love as a collective.”
Which brings us to his big roll of the dice this weekend: the first ABBA ZABBA Festival at Roaring Camp this Sunday. It mixes a Latin Psychedelic vibe with old school soul.
The festival’s name didn’t come from the old school Abba Zaba candy bar, but rather, in the esoteric musical body that makes up Govea’s backbone, it comes from a Captain Beefheart song, “Abba Zaba.” He added the extra b.
“It’s from my favorite LP, ‘Safe as Milk’,” says Govea.
The lyrics give you a clue as to what to expect from the Festival–in other words, expect the unexpected:
“Babbette baboon [repeat] abba zaba zoom
Two shadows at Noon, Babbette baboon
Comin’ over pretty soon, Babbette baboon”
Govea has been working eight years to put on his first Santa Cruz festival and he hopes it will become a semi-annual tradition, to bring great up-and-coming music into a beautiful outdoor venue, filled with nature. It will play unusually for a rock festival on a Sunday from 11am to 8pm.
“My goal was to keep it a tighter, curated event with 1,000 to 1,500 people who can watch from a good vantage point and not run back and forth between stages,” says Govea. “It’s a sitting in the park vibe.”
This will be one of those festivals people will talk about for years to come.
Headliners Thee Sacred Souls is an up and coming band that’s played in Santa Cruz before, selling out shows in Moe’s Alley. Their music is timeless, a mix of 60s soul and R&B but with a modern feel. Two of the members grew up in Southern California low-rider culture and the sound comes through: a mix of sweet, soulful tunes with nostalgic, romantic lyrics.
R&B retro-soul singer Lady Wray fits in seamlessly with the other acts, bringing her incredible singing range into the mix. She is the first artist Missy Elliot signed to her label, The Goldman Inc, in 1997. She has worked with music giants like Jay-Z and the Black Eyed Peas. Her powerful vocals carry every song, with people comparing her to the likes of Arethra Franklin.
Female american rock band trio Tchotchke will also be gracing the stage, along with the funky, psychedelic sounds from BOLERO!
THEE SACRED SOULS
The first time I saw Thee Sacred Souls, I couldn’t help but think about my relationships—past, present and future. I swooned as lead singer Josh Lane took the mic in his hand, eyes closed, and filled the room with his sweet, soulful voice, backup singers punctuating his words with soft and high melodies.
Combined with Sal Samano on bass and Alex Garcia on drums, the trio’s music feels like a diary entry. They sing of love and relationships, stripping back fluff to get at the substance of relationships: communication, honesty, infatuation, all set to a soft and whimsical soundtrack that could be from the 60s.
“This whole genre really lends itself if you look back in history, to love, whether it’s romantic feelings or heartbreak,” Lane says. “That’s at least three fourths of the topics in soul music. And then on top of that, I’m more of a romantic, fantasizing about the different stories that could be when it comes to love, mix that up with actual experiences. Those are the kinds of stories that I felt drawn to when I would listen to the instrumentals that Sal and Alex bring to the table.”
Even when the lyrics do the hard work of taking on serious topics and divulging deep truths, the sound of the music is warm and soft, like a Sunday afternoon spent with dear loved ones. High notes and guitar riffs flow and swell as seamlessly as water, giving the music an easygoing feel.
The band formed in early 2019 in San Diego and quickly landed a record deal with the revered Daptone label. Their first singles racked up more than ten million streams in a year and garnered attention from Billboard, Rolling Stone, and KCRW.
Lead singer Lane joined the group after a few stints as a singer in other indie bands. A Sacramento native, he grew up on gospel music in church.has a background in opera singing and classical music, which comes through with some of the impressive range he’s able to hit and those high notes that give the music a soulful touch.
Meanwhile, drummer Alex Garcia and bassist Sal Samano connected in San Diego, bonding over their shared love of low-rider culture and Chicano soul music.
“I grew up on soul music,” Samano says. “My dad was always playing soul in the background, at family get-togethers and barbecues and throughout the house. I would collect soul records. When we were starting this band I found my way back to soul, I think it just played the biggest part in my childhood.”
The three’s taste in music and what they were raised on combined to create an ageless sound with influences from 60s R&B, soul and funk with a modern spin.
Both Samano and Lane say that at the core, they’re making music that people can relate to. At shows, Samano says he will look out into the crowd and see people tearing up, crying and having pure emotion on their face.
Lane says that the music touches on the most human experience: love.
“I would hope that people would take this record and have it be a companion to their life,” Lane says. “You know, maybe play a record, maybe play one of the songs when they’re in love with their partner and maybe play some of the songs at home when they’re feeling introspective about love or heartbreak or even working through the tougher parts of a relationship.”
It was a magical accident that created Tropa Magica’s magical sound.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist David Pacheco, 35, was brought up mostly on cumbias, the Mexican folk music his parents played. Then one day, he was getting out of his parent’s minivan and he spotted a jacket of CDs on the ground.
Inside were discs by Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd and suddenly he was bitten by the bug of rock and roll.
“I was really intrigued by the music,” he says. “I had heard of them but never delved into it. If it wasn’t for that, I would have listened to more hip-hop.”
All of a sudden, he started wearing black T-shirts and exploring the shimmery, psychedelic sounds of classic prog rock. And he created a new style he calls “psychedelic-cumbia-punk,” a breathtaking amalgam of traditional folk music with heavy, spacey rock that defies any one category.
Seeing two shows this year, the band took my breath away. It was like hearing Pink Floyd before anyone knew who they were. I saw them open for Los Lobos and again at Moe’s Alley, and I bought all of their music. I couldn’t wait to tell all of my friends about them and I can’t wait to see them again at ABBA ZABBA.
The band will play as a trio with David, his brother, Rene, 31, on drums and bassist Jason Juarez. The brothers have added violin and keyboards at some shows. The brothers started playing together in East LA (also home base for Los Lobos) when they were 14 and 17 and their name comes from an earlier version when they were called Commons and their Tropa Magica (magical troupe) and had sword swallowers and jugglers. They cut back when traveling with seven people was too difficult.
They’ll play a greatest hits set at ABBA ZABBA, they say, and will gauge whether the audience wants to dance or space out. I vote space, but I’ll be happy either way.