Jackie Espitia | Mustang News

The Shabang Live Music and Arts Festival returned to Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo after a nearly two year hiatus. The five stages attracted roughly 4,000 guests on Friday and 9,000 on Saturday, as well as 40 artists from all over the country. 


Audio by Sophie Lincoln

The first Shabang was thrown back in 2014 by four Cal Poly students and was held illegally atop Cuesta Ridge. It featured only local acts and was a way for the founders to bring house shows to a larger scale, according to Shabang’s public relations specialist Nikki Morgan.

“They just started figuring out that there were so many more people that were interested in creating a music festival that bases itself around the culture of the Central Coast, and bringing super cool music and awesome experiences to the people of San Luis Obispo and the general California public,” Morgan said.

Now held legally, this Shabang took place overlooking Laguna Lake and the surrounding hills and featured headliners like TV Girl, STRFKR, Walker and Royce and The Knocks. 

The Music

The main stage, named the Laguna Lake stage, was set on the waterfront of Laguna Lake and decorated in red, orange and purple colors. Crowds gathered to watch the acts Tropa Magica, Levitation Room, Hot Flash Heat Wave, Strange Case, Dante Marsh and the Vibesetters, The Hip Abduction and Post Animal. 

TV Girl, Neil Frances and STRFKR headlined the Laguna Lake stage to close out the festival nights, with TV Girl on Friday and Neil Frances and STRFKR on Saturday evening. 

Funk Safari was one of the electronic dance music (EDM)-based stages, adorned in jungle leaves and a painted bull skull. The stage consistently attracted a large crowd with performers like Walker and Royce, The Knocks and Miss Dre.

The Hush House Silent Disco was the second EDM attraction, inspired by San Luis Obispo’s house show culture. To enter, guests would walk through the front of a house and pick up a set of headphones. There were two live DJ sets that could be tuned in to from the privacy of the attendee’s personal headset.

The Cuesta Ridge Stage was the home for many of Cal Poly’s student-run bands and drew crowds of those who weren’t afraid to kick up some dust dancing to their favorite local acts. The bands Couch Dog, Swede and Skogen, The Bogeys and Honeyboys performed at this stage alongside other California-based artists Creative Differences, The Charities, Uncle Uncle, The Bash Dogs and Spooky Mansion. 

KCPR reporter Emily Tobiason interviewing Santa Barbara band Uncle Uncle backstage at Shabang. Lily Tenner | KCPR

KCPR sat down with Uncle Uncle, a Santa Barbara rock band, who said that after three years in the making they were excited to perform on the Cuesta Ridge stage. 

“The energy is really good … we’re excited to be on a stage like this,” drummer Nick Fields said. “We’ve been playing in dark, damp rooms and this is a nice change-up.”

Shabang is also a great opportunity for exposure given the variety of tastes and genres present, lead guitarist Christian Edstrom said.

“This is probably one of the bigger audiences, if not the biggest, we’ve ever played in front of so that’s really cool,” Edstrom said. 

Another band performing at the Cuesta stage was the Huntington Beach group Creative Differences. Lead singer Ryan Petersen said it was “crazy” seeing the festival come to fruition after several months of work.

Although his allergies were set off by the grass and wind, drummer Larson McDonald said he enjoyed the park’s weather and scenery. 

“This is me and [the bassist, Aidan’s] first music festival, we’ve never even been to one, so we’re excited to be playing one,” McDonald said.

The art & vendors

Hammockers lounged out among trees while artists set up their painting supplies and artwork — which ranged from traditional paint-on-canvases to murals crafted on wooden doors — along the base of the tree’s trunks. Throughout the length of the festival, artists could be spotted creating artwork in real time in this space. 

One of the live artists was local artist Amanda Berger, who said she has been going to Shabang for many years. She painted a large crocodile to hang in her house.

“It’s just literally so fun,” Berger said. “I’m so happy I get to sit here and paint.”

In between the University and Laguna Lake stages was another art garden filled with canvas paintings, drawings, graphics and sculptures hanging from trees or displayed on stands. 

Alongside the displays of music and art, vendors ranging from clothing, artwork and accessories were located within the shopping district of the festival named the Shabang Marketplace. 

Eclectic festival clothing from vendors such as Milk Room and All In Onesie were available, as well as Wook Earrings, a vendor selling earrings that doubled as earplugs to protect the hearing of festival goers while enabling them to remain stylish. 

The screen printing clothing company, Thirty by Thirty, had an interactive TV set next to their shop where people could watch themselves being recorded, explore the trippy visuals and effects, play video games or simply relax. 

Another vendor, Maria Kate Art, sold jewelry, hand-held mirrors, hair clips, stickers and more. She said her experience as a vendor was great given the support from the Shabang team and the kindness of shoppers.

“I went to Shabang when it was a baby festival … so it’s really cool to be here when it’s blowing up,” she said. “Full circle moment.”

The culture

Festival-goers were greeted by a wooden archway that spelled out “Shabang” and three giant blown-up mushrooms that stood tall near the entrance, providing shade for guests to lay on blankets and socialize. 

San Luis Obispo-based band Honeyboys takes the Cuesta Ridge stage. Jackie Espitia | Mustang News

The event had multiple contributions of Cal Poly students on display: student bands performed along the festival’s lineup and as well as structures that were originally featured in the 2022 Cal Poly Architecture Program Design Village.

Architectural engineering sophomore Ellie Untalan said she enjoyed getting out of the classroom to enjoy the music.

Having been to Outside Lands, Untalan said she did not know as many artists at Shabang but felt the environment was similar in seeing people she knew and getting dressed up.

“[Shabang] brings a lot of local artists together and the community gets to appreciate and support a lot of local artists,” Untalan said.

Shabang University was an area of the event which hosted interactive workshops –– ranging in dance, yoga, speed dating, health and self love –– taught by locals. 

Intimacy Coach Rory Adele taught “sex magic” at the University stage — an ancient teaching focused on embodying ones desires. She said she thought the crowd of people enjoyed it.

College students, fans and performers walked around the clothing and art pop-up shops, watched aerialists hang from silks and rings and wandered from stage to stage to see the artists perform.

Environmental engineering junior Julia Loew said she particularly loved the set up and design of the festival. She also liked the ability to switch between the variety of music genres offered.

“SLO is such a magical little place, in my opinion, and so we have this little music festival that started here, was born here and is slowly growing,” Loew said. “That is so wonderful because I think any reason to have more people coming into SLO is a good reason, especially to enjoy good music and fun times with good people.”