“It’s not your father’s rock concert, and it’s not your grandfather’s string quartet.”
That’s how Carlsbad Music Festival artistic director and co-founder Matt McBane described his fledgling fete in 2005. It’s still an apt description 11 years later.
The all-ages festival, which celebrates its 13th anniversary this weekend, is a celebration of stylistic diversity. McBane, 37, has a seemingly endless appetite for aural adventure. This applies to his work as a composer, violinist and - especially - as the curator of his critically acclaimed and increasingly popular annual music fete.
That appetite is reflected in the festival’s marketing slogan: “Adventurous music by the beach,” and by its eclectic lineup.
This year’s performers range from vintage analog synthesizer champion Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Persian classical music specialists the Namad Trio and San Diego Opera soprano Anishka Lee-Skorepa to jazz guitar dynamo Peter Sprague, the rollicking Euphoria Brass Band and the proudly uncompromising cutting-edge quartet gnarwhallaby.
The lineup also includes McBane himself. He will perform “Drawn,” his suite for a bluegrass string band with a group of musical pals. He has also composed a novel piece for a triangle quartet, which the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet will perform Saturday at the festival as a West Coast premiere.
This weekend’s offerings include nine ticketed, paid-admission concerts, along with a heady array of free performances by dozens of artists. Many are locally or regionally based; others journey from across the country.
McBane, who grew up in Carlsbad, is the co-founder of the acclaimed Calder Quartet. He is also a key member of the Brooklyn-based ensemble Build, which draws from chamber music, various iterations of rock, jazz, minimalism, the avant garde and more. A longtime proponent of the DIY aesthetic, McBane built his festival from the ground up, finding venues, selecting the performers, writing grants, doing the marketing and more.
After being held for its first six years in the Carlsbad Library, the festival expanded its reach - literally - by starting to expand into the surrounding community.
It is now held on the streets, sidewalks and parking lots of Carlsbad, as well as in art galleries, the train station, parks, churches and other Carlsbad Village locales. Starting four years ago, the festival added free outdoor concerts that embraced everything from folk and indie-rock to World Music and various points in between.
McBane is at work on his Ph.D. in music composition at Princeton University in New Jersey. He is savvy enough to realize that when serious - and sometimes seriously challenging - music is presented alongside styles that are more accessible and mainstream, listeners who came to hear one are more likely to be exposed and receptive to the other.
It’s a sound recipe for success. Here’s to the Carlasbad Music Festival’s next 13 years.