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San Luis Obispo’s only hip-hop and rock combination music festival, Rock ‘N’ Flow, is rocking and rolling into Santa Rosa Park this Saturday at noon.
This year, Step Brothers — made up of the duo Alchemist and Evidence — and rapper Mistah F.A.B. are headlining the event, followed by more than 12 local bands and performers. The event will combine live bands performing with hip-hop artists until 8 p.m.
The festival started in organizer and emcee James Kaye’s hometown of Ojai, Calif. in 2009. It has grown since then and was officially re-established in San Luis Obispo in 2012 after a few trial runs.
Kaye and his good friend and co-organizer K.I.D. Rick were inspired to start the festival after their own struggles of finding professional venues to play at.
“I was having a hard time getting booked, myself, as an artist,” Kaye said. “We wanted to start something that would be a platform for ourselves and our friends to perform at a higher level.”
Rock ‘N’ Flow is innovative because it is the first festival of its kind and scale in San Luis Obispo, and it is a genre Kaye wants to make more popular.
“The idea behind Rock ‘N’ Flow is that it is the name of our concert series, but it is also a form of music that we are trying to carve out its own little niche,” Kaye said. “It’s hip-hop with the live band. Lots of influence from jazz, reggae, rock and some alternative stuff.”
In fact, Kaye’s own performance at the event will be in conjunction with local band Wordsauce. It’s members have also been involved in the planning of the event.
The past two Rock ‘N’ Flow festivals have been modeled after similar larger events such as Paid Dues or Rock the Bells. The smaller and more humble Rock ‘N’ Flow will feature performers from the Central Coast and other California towns such as Oakland and Los Angeles.
“It is definitely an intimate experience,” Kaye said. “There are tons of local and upcoming artists and bands. A lot from the area and a couple from out of town.”
Kaye describes the lineup as the best Rock ‘N’ Flow has ever seen. He is especially looking forward to headliners Step Brothers traveling from Los Angeles to perform.
“Having Evidence and Alchemist come through to headline is pretty amazing to me, because those guys are both huge inspirations and influences on myself as an artist,” Kaye said.
The festival has many favorites from the past two events returning. Luckiam and Lana Shea will perform together for the third consecutive time. Their bass-heavy, hip-hop dance music has been a crowd favorite in the past, Kaye said.
He said the local bands and performers such as Wynn and Ziplock Music will also be a big draw because of the following they have made here in town.
“I am looking forward to the amount of people who are coming out,” Kaye said. “With all the local performers drawing their fans, it is going to be something like the town has really never seen.”
Kaye expects approximately 1,000 people to attend Rock ‘N’ Flow — a record-setting number for the event. That would be a big step considering the much smaller attendance of the inaugural Rock ‘N’ Flow.
Jacob Rocha, guitarist and vocalist for local band Bare Feet, performed at the first Rock ‘N’ Flow.
“James Kaye and Rick really weren’t experienced in organizing a music festival, but they went for it anyway,” Rocha said. “The turnout was more than I expected, but I think there will definitely be more people this year.”
That first event set the groundwork and gave Kaye an idea of what was needed to make a music festival successful. He had to deal with hiccups such as the sound not working, but ultimately, those experiences will make this event go more smoothly, he said.
Bare Feet has been together since high school and has developed from a reggae-influenced band to more alternative with touches of blues and funk.
Rocha sees Rock ‘N’ Flow as an excellent chance to get Bare Feet’s music publicized — just what Kaye wanted the event to be when he first started it.
“We’ll play some good cover tunes and a lot of originals because that is what we like to do at shows like these,” Rocha said. “I am sure the other performers are thinking the same thing. They want to display their art.”
Rocha has seen the festival develop and grow into an event much larger than Kaye and Rick ever imagined.
“James always says it is kind of a grassroots music festival and nobody has really ever done something like this in San Luis Obispo, so it is always fun to see it happen,” Rocha said. “It is awesome (to) see some local guys put together something so big.”
Another group with ties to Kaye is Ziplock Music, whose style can be described as underground hip-hop influenced by mainstream artists.
“It’s all about the rhymes,” band member Prolix said. “We have a strong West Coast type of feel because we are all from California.”
Rock ‘N’ Flow will be a forum for the band to get reactions from its new album, Extra Grams. The group will also be perform crowd favorites from its older releases.
The festival will feature more than music. Attendees can enjoy a barbecue, beer garden and artists spray painting on set-up walls.
Tickets are $15 pre-sale and can be purchased online or at The Sub on South Higuera and High streets.
“This will be a defining year for us,” Kaye said. “Anybody there this year will be able to say, ‘I was there when it was just getting going.’”