Cal Poly business administration junior Wes Berger is taking time off of school this quarter. It is not because of a family emergency, health or grades. Berger is taking time off of school to organize a music festival.
Berger is one of the five founders of SubSessions, the grassroots collective that doubles as a platform for artists and musicians. He and four other Cal Poly students that make up the collective are adding a new music festival to the growing music scene in San Luis Obispo.
“The main ideology behind SubSessions is that it is very community-based. We want to showcase what the Central Coast has to offer,” business administration junior and co-founder of SubSessions Kelly Ridder said.
SubSessions assists musicians and artists by giving them a space to create. For musicians, SubSessions provides a stage and an audio system. From poets and sculptors to painters, artists can create and showcase their work through SubSessions.
The collective’s festival, Life’s a Peach, will feature local musicians, artists and vendors May 19. Mannequins by day, The Ragged Jubilee, and The Good Nature Collective are among more than 40 artists on the lineup.
Music will begin at 1 p.m. May 19 and will end at 6 a.m. May 20. Tickets sell for $43 online. SubSessions is not releasing the location of the festival until the day before, but it will be on a private property 40 minutes north of San Luis Obispo.
History of SubSessions
Ridder said he did not foresee SubSessions growing into what it is today. Eight months ago, the collective did not exist, and some of the founders had not yet met.
“It all began with small parties,” Ridder said. “That’s a big way we all began meeting each other and forming SubSessions.”
Berger, along with graphic communication junior and SubSessions co-founder Jeanette Gialketsis organized renegade-style parties called “iT” in 2016 and 2017. The parties were a hit, but Berger and Gialketsis wanted something more.
“We met some people doing similar things, all small scale,” Berger said. “Once we began hanging out, sipping beer together and drafting ideas, things began to take off.”
Berger met up with Cal Poly alumni Christian Parong and Austin Hanrath when he heard they too were organizing events centered around San Luis Obispo’s music scene at Pirate’s Cove.
Parong said Ridder would be a good addition to the crew. Berger said business administration junior and musician AJ Absy would be a good addition as well, and just two weeks before the first SubSessions’ event in October 2017, the five founders met up to begin planning.
The event took place at an old mine shaft off of the former Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route near the Pozo Saloon. According to Berger, the group released the address the day of the event.
With a couple extra helping hands, SubSessions set up a table for DJing atop the mine shaft, as well as a light display projecting toward the DJ table and a booth to sell merchandise.
According to Hanrath, the audio was poor, but the turnout of almost 150 people was worth it.
“After our first event, we knew SubSessions had the potential to become the community it is today,” Hanrath said.
What’s cooking today
By now, Ridder said SubSessions has created a community centered around art and music.
“The music scene in San Luis Obispo hasn’t been great,” Ridder said. “So we are trying our best to provide the people with a good outlet.”
On a sunny day this quarter, SubSessions threw a backyard pop-up shop with live music. They sold SubSessions’ merchandise, designed by Gialketsis, showcased several artists’ work and had different bands and DJs perform. A few hours into the event, the small backyard was full of college students and even a few parents.
The backyard party is one of the many events SubSessions has either thrown or participated in since October 2017. SubSessions has also boothed at Makers’ Market, a flea market that hops around to different venues around San Luis Obispo, and at SLO Cup, the biggest cannabis event on the Central Coast.
From an outside perspective, SubSessions can appear to be solely fun-filled, but Berger said there is a lot of behind-the-scenes stress, especially when throwing a festival.
“I’m losing sleep over this sh*t,” Berger said.
Berger spends his days in the sunroom of his rental home, minutes from campus. His blond curly hair mopped to the side and ear pressed to phone, he mostly attempts to sort out legal issues for Life’s a Peach, making phone calls all day.
On a recent Sunday afternoon as he sat down for an interview, Berger’s focus was sorting out how to get an onsite emergency medical technician (EMT) team at Life’s a Peach. He claims that safety at the festival is one of his biggest concerns.
But that is not the only thing keeping Berger up at night.
While SubSessions could not provide a figure in terms of ticket sales, their goal is to sell 450 to 600 tickets. To Hanrath, ticket sales are crucial to making back the $14,000 the crew spent to organize the event.
According to Hanrath, it can be troubling when spending $14,000 to throw a festival.
Most of the $14,000 is coming out of Hanrath’s savings account, while the second largest portion is coming out of Ridders’.
“It is very troubling to know we might not make back all of the money,” Hanrath said. “That scares the hell out of me.”
While Berger, Pale and the rest of the founders can get overwhelmed with stress at times, it is hard for them to stay that way when they know the event is just around the corner.
“It’s that moment when you’re standing there, like, looking at what’s going on and seeing how happy everyone is,” Berger said. “And also feeling the happiness in turn, and just being like, ‘Oh my god, we pulled it off.’”