Carlsbad Music Festival invites music fans to take a chance on something new

If variety is the spice of life, the 14th annual Carlsbad Music Festival will be very flavorful - sonically speaking.

Promising “adventurous music by the beach,” the festival begins Friday, and the campus of St. Michael’s by-the-Sea will be the hub, with ticketed, indoor concerts, food trucks, artisans and other vendors.

Across the street, Magee Park will be the site of free performances.

A quick look at a few artists gracing festival stages demonstrates the varied aural pleasures the festival offers. On Friday, Calder Quartet’s cellist Eric Byers creates his own brand of music with live sampling. On Saturday, San Diego’s high-energy Euphoria Brass Band will parade in an exuberant New Orleans “second line” style. That night, multi-instrumentalist, composer and electronic music explorer Julia Holter headlines. Sunday night’s closing act is the extremely experimental trio Xiu Xiu, playing the music of TV’s “Twin Peaks.”

The 15-plus indoor concerts require the purchase of a ticket; the 30 or so outdoor shows are free. Expect all to be unique.

“Part of the adventure is the range of music,” said composer/violinist Matthew McBane, founder and artistic director of the Carlsbad Music Festival. “You’ll listen to so many different kinds in a short period time. That’s what people love about the festival.

“I like music that challenges the idea of genre. I ask audiences to follow me on this musical adventure. Audience members may know a few of the artists, and then they’ll have these surprises and revelations.”

One musician likely to provide both is Bora Yoon, who performs Saturday evening. Classically trained on piano, violin and voice, Yoon also plays guitar. Finding little opportunity as a Korean-American woman on those instruments, she applied her skills to create inventive “soundscapes,” for which she also uses found objects.

“Having perfect pitch, I can find a pitch in any sound,” said Yoon, 37, speaking from Princeton University, where she’s pursuing a doctoral degree. “That’s a doorway to what people think is noise. I can make it music. It’s where sound and music meet, triggering memory, senses or associations.

“And there’s the visual component. People see where the sound is coming from. Tibetan bowls, for example, are also sacred objects. Everything has double meaning. I like defying stereotypes people don’t know they have. The arts have always been my home. There’s no wrong answer in the arts, as long as you’re sincere and circulating energy.”

14th Annual Carlsbad Music Festival

When: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, Aug. 25; 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 26; Noon to 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27.

Where: Festival Hub, St. Michael’s by the Sea, 2775 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad

Tickets: Free for many concerts; for ticketed concerts: one-day pass, $40; three-day pass, $99; VIP passes available

Phone: 323.702.4500


In addition to Tibetan bowls, Yoon also employs such objects as empty cans, sticks and bells. Her beautiful and versatile voice often adds an ethereal feel on top of the percussion and unexpected sounds she creates.

All of this is enhanced by Yoon’s use of electronics.

“Digital stuff allows me to build vast and growing soundscapes,” she said. “It can start from thin pages from the Bible, combined with draft wind, combined with singing, and eventually violin. Think of it cinematically: a shot of a small detail, then it pulls back to reveal a tree, a field and then the town.

“I layer loops on top of each other in sync, or intentionally not in sync. Patterns emerge and I manipulate from there. I can distort or reverse. Put in changes. Granulate. I’m processing the sound I’m doing live.”

In addition to her Saturday concert, which precedes Julia Holter’s set, Yoon will be a guest vocalist with festival founder McBane’s group Friday night. Although McBane is also a Princeton doctoral student, this will be the first time they’ve performed together.

Having an apartment in Brooklyn allows the busy composer to lead the chamber-music-meets-alt-rock group Build.

Having grown up in Carlsbad, he comes here frequently to help coordinate the festival.

A labor-of-love operation, the Carlsbad Music Festival has another full-time staffer, three summer part-timers and about 30 volunteers.

McBane performs his compositions at the festival each year with musicians he knows from Los Angeles.

“We’ll play music I’ve been writing for a new album,” McBane said. “This band is kind of a West Coast version of Build.”

He is excited about the festival’s newly added indoor venue, the Army and Navy Academy Chapel, which he described as beautiful, historic and right on the beach.

His group, cellist Byers, Holter and Xiu Xiu will perform there.

While these artists will present their highly creative music in ticketed, indoor venues, intrepid music will be everywhere, McBane said.

“The artists in the free concerts have something adventurous in all of them. Qamar, for example, are influenced by Persian and Arabic music. There are great local indie rock bands, like Carlsbad’s Lightning Cola, who are really fun. The G Burns Jug Band does traditional Appalachian music.

“To get the full effect, the best thing is to go to both. You could seriously listen to a concert inside and then have some fun on the lawn, hearing other music. You could stay all day, take a break from music, swim in the ocean and come back. It’s pretty ideal.”