Welcome New Executive Director Bob Fiedler

Much of Stern Grove Festival’s longevity can be attributed to one thing: heart. The heart of its founder, who shared her vision for access to the arts for all. The heart of its audiences and patrons, who have fueled the Festival with applause and donations for eight decades. The heart of its volunteers, who make a gift of their time and hard work. The heart of its dedicated staff and Board of Directors, who are committed to the organization’s success. And last, but not least, the heart of a leader.

Stern Grove Festival is excited to welcome (just in time for its 80th Season!) the organization’s new leader, Executive Director Bob Fiedler.

Read on to learn more about Bob and join us this summer to welcome him to the Grove!


SGFA: What makes a great leader?

BF: I think a leader is someone who can inspire groups of people around a mission – and that’s easier to do when you’re working with a tremendous mission like that of Stern Grove Festival. I think that if you burn with passion on the inside, hopefully you can get others to also come along for the ride and become advocates for the organization. Other important traits are being a great listener, being empathetic, and having strong emotional intelligence in order to care deeply about people and the organization that he or she is serving.

How do you think you will have the greatest impact on the organization?

I think first and foremost my passion for music will have a great impact on my time here. Music is an extremely important part of my life—it’s borderline sacred. It’s been hugely important to me in many, many moments of my life and has brought me some of my happiest times, as well as helped me through many difficult periods.

In addition, I think my overall non-profit experience will be a benefit. I’ve been around the block a little bit now, having run two different arts-based non-profit organizations and having over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. I think that all of those experiences have shaped me and given me exposure to lots of different situations that hopefully will serve me here.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

I feel extremely honored to have found myself in this position. In the last few days I’ve visited Stern Grove and have found myself pinching my arm, wondering how I got so lucky to be entrusted to work in such a magical place that is an important San Francisco cultural institution. Everything about the Festival—the music, the space, the tradition—it’s all of those things that I’ve been entrusted to take care of and shepherd into its next phase of existence…and I couldn’t be more excited and honored to do so.

I’ve been to a lot of concert venues around the country and I think the Grove is one of the most gorgeous settings in which you could listen to music. It’s that beauty—and the community—that make Stern Grove Festival such a special experience. I think there’s something wonderful about art and musical performance, in that it brings people together. It bridges cultural gaps, it bridges generational gaps, it’s the universal language, and it’s a very unifying thing. I am just so geeked that I get to be a part of this.

As a recent transplant, what do you like most about living in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area…what a special and unique place this is. Having traveled to over 30 countries, I’ve been to a lot of the major cities around the world. There’s no other place that quite combines such a desirable climate with this level of physical gorgeousness (the mountains, the redwood, palm and eucalyptus trees, the ocean, and the bridges) and with great people.

California is a pretty progressive place, but I think that San Francisco is the epicenter of that. There is a lot of amazing innovation and thinking that goes on here, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

And last but not least, what concert are you most looking forward to this summer?

Well, I’m looking forward to all of the concerts for different reasons. But from a purely musical standpoint I think I’m most looking forward to our second concert of the season, July 2 with Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers and Fantastic Negrito. I love that they’re both local artists, and both have really great reputations within the music world. I’m also really excited for The Big Picnic on June 25th with Kool & the Gang, because it’s going to be a big shindig and a very well-attended show. That being said, I am truly looking forward to each and every show.


About Bob Fiedler

Bob brings over 20 years experience in the nonprofit sector, 13 at the executive level for two different arts performance/educational organizations. Most recently he served as the Executive Director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP), a nonprofit performing and educational arts organization that presents dance performances and dance festivals, runs the American Rhythm Center dance school, and provides weekly dance education to public school students.

Previously, Bob was the Executive Director of The People’s Music School (TPMS), a prestigious community music school that provides ongoing music lessons for thousands of young people completely free of charge. TPMS also provides free concerts to the public, featuring nationally recognized artists and was on the forefront of bringing the innovative “El Sistema” music education methodology to the United States. While at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler worked very closely with the Ravinia Festival to bring hundreds of children to their summer concerts and help TPMS build orchestral programs in public schools. Prior to his tenure at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler was Development Director for REST, a community-based homeless services agency in Chicago. He began his nonprofit career with the Chicago Muscular Dystrophy Association, serving first as a District Director and then moving up to Regional Coordinator.

Quinn DeVeaux with “Down in the Grove” Commission

If you ask any one of our Festival patrons at random, chances are that they’ve been attending admission-free concerts at Stern Grove Festival for years — maybe even decades. The same goes for many of our local performers like singer/songwriter Quinn DeVeaux, the opening act for this summer’s Big Picnic Concert, who returns to the Grove.

“Playing at Stern Grove is such a pleasure. I’m happy to be doing it again,” says Quinn. “I love performing with trees — it’s like you have an extra thousand audiences members.”

Since his 2011 performance at the Grove, DeVeaux has released not one, but two albums that perfectly express his old-timey soul and blue beat music – but with a modern kick. He’s bound to play a number of these tunes at his upcoming performance when he opens for Kool & the Gang at Stern Grove Festival’s Big Picnic Concert on June 25, as well as his brand new, never-before-heard song, “Down in the Grove”, produced as part of this season’s Local Artist Commission Series.

We met with Quinn to hear about his life as a musician in the Bay Area and his creative process behind the new piece, as well as learn what inspires him as a musician and what has helped craft his sound since his last Stern Grove Festival performance.

“I continue to be influenced by the amazing musicians around me,” says Quinn. “New stuff blows through me and I catch some it and meld it into my style. I’ve started to explore more funky rhythms and slower tunes. I’ve gotten very much into Bill Withers and his churning groove-based songs. Also Al Green, and that smooth haunting quality he has.  I turn it all into Blue Beat!”

Watch the below interview to learn all about Mr. Quinn DeVeaux, set on the foreground of “Shame”, a new song off his upcoming record. Stay tuned to the end to hear a clip of the unfinished “Down in the Grove”.

RSVP for this admission-free concert on Facebook and learn more at sterngrove.org.

Interplay – Astronauts, etc. with “In the Park Dilated”

Aug21_Astronauts etcOne of the most difficult parts of fulfilling a commission request is finding the middle ground between being too literal or too obscure when following a theme or topic.

Within our 2016 local artist commission series, where 10 bands and dance groups have been asked to create new works of art based on the theme “In Concert with Nature”, it could be easy to head down the literal route (it’s tempting to throw in mentions of trees, sunshine, and grass). To avoid this road bump, the next and final group in the 79th season’s series chose to ignore the fork in the road altogether by writing a stimulating instrumental piece that envisages nature without verbalizing it.

Read on below to hear how Astronauts, etc‘s Anthony Ferraro came up with the new piece and to listen to a demo recording of “In the Park Dilated”. Visit Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, August 21, when they open the stage at 2 p.m. for The New Pornographers in the final concert of the 79th Season!


“In the Park Dilated” sheet music

Stern Grove Festival: This commission is a new experience for you as an artist. What do/did you anticipate being the most challenging aspect of it, and what are you most excited about with this process?

Anthony Ferraro: Initially what made me anxious was the idea of writing the words for the commissioned song. Writing directly about nature seemed potentially trite, but interpreting the theme more abstractly seemed potentially disingenuous. So I opted instead to write a song without words, with pen and paper, on the stage where it would be performed. This allowed me to believe I was following the theme as faithfully and simply as possible.

SGF: The commission focuses on the relationship between the artist and the environment. How does the environment/venue you perform in influence your creative choices and how does it influence how you interact with the audience?

AF: It is a tricky business to delineate the border between external environment and internal experience. All that I can say is that, sometimes, being in a beautiful place makes you more explicitly aware of a beauty that is always present and waiting to be noticed no matter your surroundings.

SGF: A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. How will this focus on accessibility (in terms of free admission and exposure to unfamiliar artists or genres) influence your creative process or performance?

AF: I like the idea of playing to a different crowd and in a different setting than usual. Normally your audience is restricted to those people of drinking age who don’t mind staying up very late, often on a week night, in very loud room with a lot of commotion.

SGF: Stern Grove Festival is committed to artistic diversity and San Francisco is known for its vibrant and diverse arts community. How would you describe the sound of San Francisco?

AF: Sonically, I think San Francisco is still trying to figure out what it wants to say right now. On one pole is a cohort of artists disenfranchised and disillusioned by the financial difficulty of living here, and on the other you find a group energized by the new collaboration of music and technology. Sometimes I feel I exist on both poles at once.

Interplay – Afrolicious

Aug14_Afrolicious1What started out as a club night in the famed Mission district Elbo Room in 2007, Afrolicious has since grown into a collective of dynamic and skilled funk, soul, and electronic musicians. Since 2010, the group has been playing for packed crowds with a party-ready combination of soulful vocals, funky bass, and lively horns and beats with classic funk, soul, disco, Latin, and Afrobeat.

“As a club night we hosted so many amazing bands, musicians, and DJs from the Bay Area and the city, as well as international,” said Afrolicious’ co-founder Joe ‘Pleasuremaker’ Mcguire, reminiscing on the group’s early days. “We had the honor of building with many amazing musicians over the years and we continue to see new artists come up and blow it up, and it remains super inspiring.”

As the next participating act in Stern Grove Festival’s Local Artist Commission Series, Afrolicious has been asked to create and debut a new song inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature” that doesn’t stray away from their usual funkiness.

“It can be challenging to write a song in general,” says Pleasuremaker, “but the subject matter makes so much sense in the context of our modern times – the need for a relationship to nature. So the subject makes the challenge all more the interesting.”

Stern Grove is an extremely unique concert setting, so naturally the commission focuses on the strong relationship between the artist and the venue’s environment. Those who attended one of Afrolicious’ early Elbo Room club nights or one of their more recent concerts know that the show is more than just a fun musical experience: it’s a raging party. Stern Grove Festival has welcomed musicians from almost every genre out there, but it is always particularly interesting to see how these high-energy, funky groups plan their show around the fact that it is an outdoor concert in the middle of the day – not in a nightclub per their usual show. Understanding these hurdles, their goal is still the same: to wake up the crowd and bring the party to Stern Grove.

“The venue plays a crucial role in how we feel and interpret the music as the sound, dynamics, visual elements, size and if it’s indoor or outdoor greatly affect the sounds and the intimacy,” said Pleasuremaker. “A venue that is inviting, relaxing, beautiful can create much more harmony between us on stage and the crowd. We love playing outdoors when the sound is truly dialed. It’s a magical feeling.”

A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. Some artists focus on this accessibility (in terms of free admission and exposure to unfamiliar artists or genres) when creating their commissioned piece, and Afrolicious in particular thinks of this as an opportunity to perform for groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t make it out to one of their shows (think children, the elderly, or people who can’t make it to shows in the evening).

“We LOVE that there is no admission,” said Pleasuremaker on behalf of his group. “I came to Stern Grove when I first moved to San Francisco and it was such a great way to be welcomed to the city: great music and open to all. We love this event and have each attended many shows over the years. We get the most excited to share what we do at free daytime events because we can play for everyone!”

A Stern Grove Festival crowd may be pretty diverse, and this depth of character matches that of the Bay Area where people of all kinds flock and frolic. It’s only natural that this diversity seeps into the performance scene. From funk and electro to brass and jazz, the SF Bay Area is home to a vibrant arts and music community.  As Pleasuremaker puts it, “San Francisco music scene is ever evolving. Change is the one constant, and that was a great influence on Afrolicious over the years.

“Hard to say there is one sound of San Francisco, it feels more like San Francisco can absorb any genre and flip it into new sounds, and that would be a long term legacy of [it] that continues today.”

Visit our website to learn more about the concert and Afrolicious. Visit Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, Aug 14 to hear them live when the open the stage at 2 p.m. for a cast of musical performers paying tribute to West African synth legend William Onyeabor in “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”.

Interplay – MJ’s Brass Boppers

Next up in this season’s #sgfInterplay Local Artist Commission Series, MJ’s Brass Boppers share their experience in creating a piece inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”, and the similarities between performing at Stern Grove Festival and in their home town of New Orleans.

The swinging and singing brass-line is the Bay Area’s only New Orleans-style brass band whose founding members were born and raised in NOLA itself. This eight-piece group’s sound has been meticulously formed over years of practicing and experimenting together, fusing classic NOLA performance with funk, jazz, modern pop, and a second line twist. Since 2008, the tight knit musicians have written, practiced, and performed together at festivals, community events, nightclubs, and street corners around the Bay Area.

Make your way to the admission-free #sterngrovefest this Sunday, Aug 7 to witness the never-before-heard song and others when MJBB opens up for R&B legends, The O’Jays at 2 p.m.

Grove Gourmet 2016: Cooking with Anchor Brewing

There are few things that say “summer” quite like Stern Grove Festival – but cooking with beer comes pretty close! This Sunday, we’re partnering with our friends and contest judges at Anchor Brewing Company to bring the Grove Gourmet Picnic Contest to the SF Ballet’s performance this Sunday. Anchor Brewmasters will roam the Grove in search of the best picnic out there (extra points for incorporating Anchor brews, now available in cans!).

First place takes home a VIP brewery tour and tasting for 10 adults at Anchor Brewing Company. Second place wins an Anchor merchandise swag bag. Be sure to make plenty to share with our judges, who will be in the Grove to judge picnic spreads between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Look out for their white coveralls to know who to wave down, and let us know you’re entering into the contest by sharing an Instagram or tweeting a picture of your picnic and tagging #sterngrovefest and #RaiseYourAnchor.

As inspiration for the weekend’s picnic contest, Chef Ken Hernandez and Anchor Brewing have come up with the following recipes, showing us all how delicious (and easy) incorporating beer into recipes can be.

If you’re of age, you can find the following tasty brews and others with Anchor Brewing’s Beer Finder.


Coffee Rubbed Steak Marinated in Anchor California Lager with Chimichurri Sauce
Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:CA Lager Steak- finished
2 lbs. flank steak
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoons black pepper

Rub:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons coffee grounds
1 tablespoon chile de arbol
1 tablespoon turmeric, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
¼ cup (2 oz.) Anchor California Lager
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Chimichurri Sauce:
⅓ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon jalapeno, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon shallots, chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
Dash ground black pepper and salt

Directions:CA Lager Steak Marinade

  1. Combine flank steak, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the rub.
  3. Massage the dry rub into the flank steak and refrigerate covered in plastic for up to 2 hours.
  4. On a grill or hot pan, sear both sides until caramelized. 4 minutes on first side, 3 on the other side (medium rare).
  5. Combine all chimichurri ingredients. Finish off with ground black pepper and kosher salt. Serve with steak.

Anchor Mango Peach Galette
Yield: 1 Galette, 8 Servings

Mango Wheat Galette- finished

Filling:
1 large mango, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup peach, sliced thin
1 cup strawberry, sliced thin
2 cups (16 oz.) Anchor’s Mango Wheat
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract dash of salt

Crust:
1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of almond flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup of butter, cubed
¼ cup (2 oz.) Anchor’s Mango Wheat (ice cold)
1 egg

Garnish:
Mint and granulated sugar

Mango Wheat Galette - fillingInstructions:

  1. Mix mango and peach together in a large bowl. Add Anchor’s Mango Wheat, vanilla and sugar. Stir and set aside.
  2. Whisk together all-purpose flour, almond flour, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, creaming it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or for until the dough starts to form. (You can do this in a food processor by pulsing the mixture until blended). Add cold Anchor’s Mango Wheat and blend until the mixture is moist and emulsified. Feel free to add a bit more liquid if the dough is too dry. Once the dough is evenly mixed, roll into a ball and wrap in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover with a thin layer of butter. Lightly flour surface and roll out a 12-inch round with dough.
  5. Separate the fruit mixture from the liquid and add the strawberries. Stir until blended. Spoon the fruit mixture on to the dough round, starting from the center and moving out, leaving a 2-inch outside border. Fold edges towards the center of the round.
  6. Beat egg in small bowl and brush a thin layer of egg wash on the folded dough crust. Sprinkle granulated sugar on the crust as well. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Culinary Credit: Chef Ken Hernandez, www.kendemame.com
Photography Credit: Joseph Phillips, www.josephmichaelphillips.com

Cooking with Anchor: Grove Gourmet 2016

What do music and food have in common? There are plenty of answers to that question, but we think they go great together at Stern Grove Festival, where we encourage all to pack a picnic and indulge in an outdoor feast. We welcome all curious and epicurious Festival attendees to participate in our Grove Gourmet Picnic Contest, sponsored and judged by our friends at Anchor Brewing Company.

Bring your favorite beer-themed picnic (extra points for incorporating Anchor brews) to the San Francisco Symphony’s performance at the Grove on Sunday, July 10. First place takes home a VIP brewery tour and tasting for 10 adults at Anchor Brewing Company. Second place wins an Anchor merchandise swag bag. Be sure to make plenty to share with our judges. Anchor brewers in white coveralls will be in the Grove to judge picnic spreads between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Let us know you’re entering into the contest by sharing an Instagram or tweeting a picture of your picnic and tagging #sterngrovefest and #RaiseYourAnchor.

Not sure what to bring? Here are some of delicious recipes for Anchor Brewing beer-centric bites, courtesy of Chef Kenneth Hernandez, Culinary Engineer and Founder of Collective Green SF.

If you’re of age, you can find the following tasty brews and others with Anchor Brewing’s Beer Finder.



Grilled Go West! IPA Jalapeno Blackberry Wings
Yield: 6 Servings

Go West! IPA

Go West! IPA

Ingredients:
4 pounds chicken wings
2 12 oz. bottles Go West! IPA
1 cup blackberries
1 jalapeno
½ cup fresh sage, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
Celery and carrots for garnish

 

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Directions:Go West! Marinade

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the jalapeno-blackberry mixture, Go West! IPA, herbs, spices, and salt until emulsified.
  2. Add wings, stir, and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Drain marinade from wings but set liquid aside and save. Pat wings dry with a paper towel.
  4. Cooking options:
    Grilling: Set your grill to 375 degrees. Place wings directly on the grate and cook for 30 minutes. As grill temps may vary, poke with a fork to check that they’re cooked through. Go West! Wings on grillPro Tip: brush glaze on wings during the cooking process. It will add more robust flavor!
    Baking: Set your oven to 375 degrees. Place wings on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cook for 30 minutes. As oven temps may vary, poke with a fork to check that they’re cooked through.
  5. Serve with celery and carrot sticks.
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Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Grilled Corn, and Feta Salad with Balsamic Meyer Lemon Lager Vinaigrette
Yield: 5 Servings

Meyer Lemon Lager SaladSalad Ingredients:
3 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 cups corn kernels, sliced off cob (grilled, cooled and sliced)
2 cups baby arugula
2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
Dash of olive oil
¾ cup feta

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup (4 oz.) Anchor’s Meyer Lemon Lager
Dash of salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Grill the corn, cool, and slice kernels off the cob. If access to a grill is not possible, steam the corn.
  2. In a large bowl, combine heirloom tomatoes, corn, baby arugula, basil, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss and set aside
  3. In a saucepan, emulsify the vinaigrette olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Anchor’s Meyer Lemon Lager, salt, and pepper.Bring to a boil, then simmer until the liquid has reduced in half. Set aside and cool
  4. Drizzle vinaigrette on salad, toss, and sprinkle feta on top.

Anchor Liberty Ale Cold Wild Rice
Yield: 6 Servings

Liberty Ale Cold Wild Rice- finishedIngredients:
1 cup wild rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2.5 cups water
1 cup (8 oz.) Anchor Liberty Ale
¼ cup red onions, small dice
½ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup green onion, chopped
¼ cup carrots, small dice
¼ cup celery, small dice

Dressing Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon honey

Liberty Ale Cold Wild Rice- cookingDirections:

  1. In a medium pot, combine olive oil, red onion, wild rice and Anchor Liberty Ale. Cook at a low boil until half of the beer has evaporated. Add water. Bring back to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. Cook until no liquid remains.
  2. Prepare dressing by combining all dressing ingredients and emulsify together.
  3. Stir in walnuts, green onion, carrots, and celery into wild rice mixture. Drizzle with dressing, stir, and garnish with parsley.
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Culinary Credit: Chef Ken Hernandez, www.kendemame.com
Photography Credit: Joseph Phillips, www.josephmichaelphillips.com

Interplay – Mix’d Ingrdnts

Oakland-based dancers Jenay Anolin and Samara Atkins sparked more than just a close friendship when they met at an audition in 2008. They had long felt the pressures of working in the male-dominated field of hip hop dance – where women are often degraded and left uninspired to pursue opportunities – and decided it was time for a change. Together they formed Mix’d Ingrdnts, an all-female, all-styles dance crew and company that seeks to empower women to speak up and express themselves through art, most often dance.

Working with a unique track made by local DJ and producer Coflo, titled “Dawn”, the ladies of Mix’d Ingrdnts have come together to create the next installment in this season’s local artist commission series. Inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with nature”, Mix’d Ingrdnts’ new work uses a natural soundscape to open the scene and set the tone for an awe-inspiring piece.

Preview the piece below, and catch the debut of “Dawn” at Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, July 3, when Mix’d Ingrdnts (along with fellow dance crew Golden State Breakers) opens the stage at 2 p.m. for local legends Hieroglyphics.

Interplay – Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics logo

Hieroglyphics is an Oakland-based musical collective of underground hip-hop artists whose individual careers skyrocketed in the early 90’s, but later came together to form their own group and hip hop recording label to take control of their careers. Since its evolution in 1997, Hieroglyphics has matured into a preeminent force in the american hip hop scene and is one of the most prolific groups that hails from the Bay Area. As a participating act in this season’s local artist commission series, members of the 9-piece Hiero crew came together to create a new song inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”. The piece will debut this Sunday, July 3, on stage at Stern Grove Festival.

We were invited to visit and interview original Hiero members Casual and Phesto Dee (also of Souls of Mischief) at their Oakland warehouse and recording space. Listen below for their perspectives on being an artist in the Bay Area, performing at Stern Grove Festival, and what words of advice they have for young musicians.

Interplay – Bayonics, “Abajo Del Sol”

For decades, generations of families from the Bay Area and beyond have looked to Stern Grove Festival as both a source of entertainment and an opportunity for families to experience music from a wide variety of cultures.

Quite often the same kids who grew up coming to the Festival every summer return as adults to perform on our stage. Stern Grove Festival is proud to provide this opportunity for local artists, and Bayonics — a local group participating in this season’s commission series — is no exception. Some of the band’s members have attended the Festival’s admission-free shows their entire lives and drew from these memories when brainstorming their new song, “Abajo Del Sol”.

As one of the 10 local performing groups participating in the commission series, Bayonics was asked to craft this new piece inspired by the theme, “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”. We had a chance to chat with Bayonics’ lead singer, Rojai, on the group’s experience participating in the commission and on their upcoming performance, when they open for funk legends George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. this Sunday, June 26. Read Rojai’s feedback below and watch the video clip to get a glimpse of their new song.


Stern Grove Festival: This commission is a new experience for you as an artist. What did you anticipate being the most challenging aspect of it, and what are you most excited about with this process?

Rojai: We would say this is a fairly new challenge for us. Stern Grove provides a diverse forum for artists to display their art and talents. Coming from San Francisco and being a household name for the last two decades, I would say the challenge was how we would approach this project in terms of genres specifically, because we play a wide range of music and we wanted to make sure that it was all encompassed in the experience of being at Stern Grove. Finally, we decided to write a song with more of a celebratory “feel good” vibe, and we identified each of our positive experiences of being at this amazing concert series in the past. The exciting part of this process was getting together and witnessing the development and growth of the song we wrote together as a group. I definitely feel that this allowed us to become stronger as a group, get on the same page, and have the results sounding super fresh!

SGF: The commission focuses on the relationship between the artist and the environment. How does the environment/venue you perform in influence your creative choices and how does it influence how you interact with the audience?

R: We were able to make the connection between the unique relationships at the Festival by having first-hand experience at the Festival our entire lives. We view Stern Grove as the city’s oasis — a place where people get to escape their daily grind and be free with shoes off in the grass. Where they get together with friends and neighbors and enjoy a free concert while dancing and singing along. Basically, allowing nature and love to inspire positivity. The connection with the audience is an experience for being in the crowd and onstage. Obviously the world is going through tough times and this is exactly what our society needs. To encourage love and respect and freedom.

SGF: A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. How will this focus on accessibility influence your creative process or performance?

R: The accessibility aspect of the Stern Grove Festival is an ideology that we share and have been on the front lines for the past two decades here in the city and abroad. Playing block parties, street festivals, and simply us running our own little generator and setting up on Market Street to create awareness of our music and our message. For us this is a huge milestone because we have been rocking stages here in the city for quite some time and Stern Grove Festival provides a larger forum for us to spread our creativity and our positive vibrations. This definitely has a lot to do with the inspiration of writing more music that will allow people to dance and get loose.  We are taking our experiences as previous audience members over the years and are able to channel that feeling into our writing process.

SGF: Stern Grove Festival is committed to artistic diversity and San Francisco is known for its vibrant and diverse arts community. How would you describe the sound of San Francisco?

R: I feel that we are a band that describes the diversity of our city. We are a Mission District-based band grounded in Latin roots, funk, hip-hop and reggae. Each member that is in the band comes from an interesting background. The diversity from our members with connections all over the world is amplified in our unique Frisco sound. A melting pot filled with rich ingredients from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The sound has changed here in the city with modern technology and electronics being integrated more in the mainstream, but unique artists are finding ways to implement folklore sound, mixed in with the new modern feel that will allow them to speak to a larger demographic.

SGF: Is there anything else Bayonics would like to let their fans know about their upcoming performance or about the band itself?

R: We want to let everyone know that they should strap on their Birkenstocks super tight because they are in for a wild ride! We are a band that embraces comradery, family, and life. We have decided for my last two years to focus more in the Caribbean sound that entails reggae, dancehall, salsa, and reggae-ton. We still have our roots in the funk, but we are displaying that more in our side projects which we will highlight this upcoming Sunday. We are super excited to be part of this summer series. Make sure to be on the lookout for our new album Resilience dropping the end of the summer. People can catch us as well at the Reggae on the River Festival in August representing the Bay Area! And also the Cukui Festival at Great America in September. And of course…thank you, Stern Grove!

Catch the debut live performance of “Abajo Del Sol” and more from Bayonics this Sunday, June 26 when they open for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. Visit our website to learn more about Bayonics and the rest of the Stern Grove Festival’s 79th Season.