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Shabang Music & Arts Festival hopes to keep amplifying "what's so awesome about the Central Coast"

This year's Shabang was held at Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo.
Avery Elowitt
This year's Shabang was held at Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo.

The Shabang Music & Arts Festival returned to San Luis Obispo this year. Organizers say they hope to keep showcasing local and visiting artists as the festival continues to grow.

From electronic dance music to beachy indie rock, artists from a variety of genres put on a show at Shabang.

What started as a small get-together now brings thousands of people to experience live music at Dairy Creek Farm.

Shabang’s Nikki Morgan said the festival started in 2014 when a small group of friends decided to throw a concert on a mountain.

“It's now turned into this fairly large music festival in San Luis Obispo,” Morgan said. “And really what they're trying to do is kind of amplify what's so awesome about the Central Coast to people who don't know about the Central Coast, which is our amazing music culture, how scenic and beautiful it is, and just all that we have to offer — whether it be vendors, food and drink, music, beautiful views, all of the above.”

Growing from 20 attendees in 2014 to over ten thousand in 2023, Morgan said Shabang continues to expand into “a little bit bigger figure every year.”

To accommodate for the expanding festival, Shabang changed their usual location from Laguna Lake to Dairy Creek Farm this year.

Thousands of people attended Shabang in 2023.
Avery Elowitt
Thousands of people attended Shabang in 2023.

“I think the new location has been like a really cool change for us," Morgan said. "It’s just a lot bigger and a lot more scenic. As much as we love Laguna Lake, this is definitely better for growing our festival.”

As the festival continues to grow, Shabang brings more artists to the Central Coast each year.

This year’s lineup included artists like Hippocampus, Men I Trust, and Bay Ledges as well as more local artists such as IMUA, TV Party, and Couch Dog.

Zach Hurd, one of the visiting artists, traveled all the way from Maine to share his music at Shabang.

Hurd started his project, Bay Ledges, after spending seven years in Los Angeles.

Hurd said Bay Ledges is a way to “try doing some new music without any pressure.” He adds that “it was really just like a passion project to start.”

Shabang is Hurd’s first festival since the start of the pandemic. He describes his music as "poppy."

“I hope we can just get the crowd and just have everybody just feel good and have fun. Feel free," Hurd said.

Bringing his music across the U.S., Hurd says California is a very different vibe from his home state in Maine.

“The weather here is amazing," Hurt said. "I really feel how that affects the soul. It's incredible. Maine, you know, the winter lasts a long time and then it's like euphoria in the summer.”

But Shabang’s lineup isn’t all big touring artists. It also includes smaller local bands like San Luis Obispo-based IMUA.

Kahonukai Boro plays keys and vocals for the band. He said, “IMUA is one word that means to move forward.”

While IMUA identifies as an R&B band, Boro said that their music borrows from other genres as well. “We mainly focus on R&B and soul at first, but it's all us, and we have a large collection of musicians under this name. And we just bring little aspects of jazz, Latin music, hip hop… We all respectfully have a large amount of different bands that we've all played in and I think this is a project of living out the word.”

Boro says that works well in the Central Coast’s eclectic music scene.

Shabang 2023's silent disco.
Avery Elowitt
Shabang 2023's silent disco.

“You go over the [Cuesta] Grade, all you hear is country singer-songwriter stuff, rock. And then you have a little jazz scene in San Luis with Cal Poly. Poly kids are all about indie surf, surf rock… The DIY scene is so strong. It's a lot of punk, it's a lot of like heavy rock. And then we came in and took it for a twist," Hurd said.

Shabang has other activities besides music, too. That includes yoga, food trucks, silent disco, and more.

DJ Mikie Orange brings her deck to the silent disco where visitors can choose between two DJs to jam out to with the switch of a button on their headphones.

“It's always such a good crew who comes out to the silent discos," Orange said. "And I actually have an hour and a half and I'm playing during sunset, so I have a little bit of a journey planned. I want to have a really nice song playing during sunset.And then as it gets darker, I'm going to be getting darker with my music, so it should be fun. I hope everyone is dancing and has a good time.”

Nikki Morgan said community involvement is what makes the festival possible. It’s also a way to include Cal Poly students in the local music scene.

“I think the fact that they integrate students from Cal Poly really sets them apart because we have a whole volunteer/internship program," Morgan said. "That's how I found out about this job that allows for where they went to school to give back and be able to give them real world experience and what they might be majoring in or whether they are interested in future.”

Morgan said the Central Coast culture sets Shabang apart from other festivals. “I think our location definitely sets us apart because we're the only festival of this size between Northern and Southern California."

"I also think the fact that we were started by just a bunch of people who love music and love what they do is something that really sets us apart," Morgan said. "Because it's not like this was something that they were like, ‘Oh, I'm going to start a music festival and this is going to be my life,’ it just kind of turned into that.”

Morgan said Shabang is now a fixture of the Central Coast music scene — and it’s only going to keep growing.

Avery Elowitt is an intern at KCBX News. She is studying Journalism with a minor in Media Arts, Society, and Technology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She worked as a reporter for KCPR and Mustang News.
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