As the sun set on Laguna Lake on Saturday, Oct. 1, attendees of the bi-annual Shabang were drenched in golden sunlight as they cheered for their favorite bands at San Luis Obispo’s ever-growing local music festival.
“Shabang is so fun. I had been before and really liked the vibe of the event and came back,” psychology junior Lana Borges said. “The people are all really cool because they enjoy similar things and I appreciate the atmosphere. It’s a judgment-free zone.”
Shabang kicked off its seventh festival with a small wooden stage set up humbly before the lake while food, clothing and art vendors surrounded a friendly crowd. Seven small bands with beach grunge, psych and indie rock sounds took the stage to give the people a good time.
“I love the beautiful people and the beautiful faces. Shabang is the capstone of my college experience,” marketing management senior Stefan Radev said.
Video by Olivia Doty
Created by three Cal Poly students in 2014, Shabang has transformed from an underground gathering of musically inclined friends and a 40 person crowd to a small-scale festival with hundreds of attendees.
Through its change in venue location from Cuesta Ridge to Laguna Lake, Shabang has become more regulated and controlled. Organizers now need permits from the city to host the music festival at the lake. Despite the new rules and growing popularity, Shabang still maintains the local charm it had from the start.
“We are at the point where we have to do things in order to make people safe. But it still has that little twinge of DIY, grassroots, people coming out to have fun. People here are nice and here to express themselves,” business administration senior Greg Golf, one of the founding members of Shabang, said.
Shabang features primarily local bands, but this year the fest drew bands from farther down the coast, like Dante Elephante from Santa Barbara and The Only Ocean from Lompoc. Other bands that played were Rose Toumanian, Psychic Astro Club and the Royal Suns, but Shabang regulars like William H. Klink and honestly, nothing drew large crowds and were clear local favorites.
Video by Olivia Doty
honestly, nothing, an indie-rock band comprised of four Cal Poly students, played their first gig in a junk machining shop and has since played in many venues in the San Luis Obispo area. But to them, there’s something special about Shabang.
“I love being on stage to see all the beautiful faces out there. I feel like I’m in a place of grand manipulation. You can make a large number of people just do things by yelling it at them,” electrical engineering junior Nic Kane, vocalist and guitarist for honestly, nothing, said.
Kane and mechanical engineering junior and guitarist Nickie Gurney were freshman roommates in Sierra Madre, where they first explored their mutual passion for music. The pair soon met the other half of the band, mechanical engineering sophomore Cameron Kao and biology sophomore Matt Neumann, through mutual friends and Facebook.
With that, honestly, nothing was born, delighting the group’s friends with wild riffs and Mac Demarco-influenced sounds. Now, honestly, nothing is entertaining new fans and loving their reactions.
“Honestly, that’s my favorite part of performing. I love making eye contact when there’s a break, lock[ing] eyes with them and then scream[ing] at them,” Neumann, the band’s drummer, said.
With almost three years of “band-bondage,” the group admits that they don’t change up their set list too much. They play songs differently, but generally don’t want to mess with the structure of the music. Kane tends to keep the same lyrical patterns throughout the years, as he accepts honestly, nothing’s main focus is not words.
“The first half of the songs are about high school girlfriends, real sad and sappy. And then the second half is about high school girlfriends as well, or just gibberish,” Kane said. “We are not a lyrically-based band.”
During their set, honestly, nothing announced that this Shabang would be their last live show. Though the group is not officially done performing, they said they’ll stop seeking out gigs in order to relax and spend time in other areas of life.
Their set, screaming and all, riled the audience and allowed for a great performance, even if it was to be the last for a while.
Video by Olivia Doty
Another band that has stood the test of time with Shabang is William H. Klink. The band includes some founding members of Shabang and continues to be a classic crowd-pleaser at the festival.
Band members Jake Schoonmaker, Alec Schwend, Angus Chang, Mike Jercich and Alex Zinger were friends with a common taste in rock ‘n’ roll. Drawing influence from ‘80s punk rock, Rod Stewart and Metallica (just to name a few), William H. Klink singer and guitarist Schoonmaker writes lyrics that reflect real emotions, feelings and life.
“I love to watch him perform. Sometimes the songs that he writes, I can kind of peg in which part of his life he wrote them. So it’s kind of fun,” Leigh Ann Schoonmaker, Schoonmaker’s mom, said.
Fans sang along to the band’s fast and hard rock ‘n’ roll as a mosh pit opened in the center of the crowd. As people pushed and shoved, a finless surfboard was hoisted above the crowd and band and audience members alike crowd surfed, literally. There were some successful attempts, but mostly disorganized moshing was the result.
The surfboard has become tradition at William H. Klink concerts and it’s clear that the band feeds off of the crowd’s intensity.
“The energy is fucking excellent this year. You can see it,” Schoonmaker said. “People are just going bananas. Wild. Our crowd has so much energy, love and respect. What a well-behaved good time.”
Though the band said they’d like to play bigger venues in the future, Shabang holds a special place in their hearts.
Schwend and Schoonmaker always helped organize Shabang. This year, they helped construct the stage’s backdrop — a large wooden “Shabang” sign with blinking rainbow lights.
As Shabang has improved, so has the band. Members have come and gone and the band says they take things more seriously now.
“We are better musicians than we used to be. It really is evolving,” Schoonmaker said. “I don’t write songs about girls anymore. They don’t deserve it. If it’s a song about loving a girl then it’s worth it, but animosity is lame.”
As for the future of Shabang, Schwend and Schoonmaker say whatever it becomes, it becomes.
“This is already rad enough,” Schwend said.
None of the organizers of Shabang get paid and all profits from the event are donated to the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO). Giving back to the community and supporting local artists remains the goal of Shabang, no matter how it changes.
Golf said there’s talk of adding a DJ set to the festival to draw a larger audience, but nothing is certain. However, Golf is sure that Shabang will hold onto its local charm for years to come.
“Every time we have a Shabang it changes, and it’s never bad,” said Golf.