By: David Garcia
Santa Clarita Skate Park
This past Saturday, the Santa Clarita Skate Park hosted another monumental event consisting of reggae music, live art and positive inspiration coming together in support of Autism Awareness. This annual event is known as the Summer Meltdown Arts and Music Festival and is presented by students of the Yes I Can social inclusion program held at Canyon High School in the Santa Clarita Valley. Now in its 12th consecutive year, the event has grown to include three stages with nearly 40 different bands, 30 live artists, major sponsors and a variety of supporters coming together for this special occasion.
The students of Yes I Can work together all year piecing together the event by contacting sponsors, stage equipment providers, artists, musicians, vendors and more to ensure a smooth running festival for concert-goers of all ages to enjoy. Although the weather was gloomy and cold, the event grounds began to warm up as soon as the first band hit the stage at approximately 11am.
LA band Iya Terra opened up the joyous occasion with a mix of fan favorites as well as songs off their recently released debut album, Full Circle. Next up were OC locals The Simpkin Project. This talented six-piece put together a great set full of energy despite having an outside drummer fill in last minute. After playing a few older crowd favorites, the band closed out the performance with their newest single, "Hustling," off of their forthcoming new album. With the two main stages next to each other and the bands playing back to back with virtually no musical gap, the early crowd was seen dancing and soaking in all the energy from the opening bands while enjoying a nice cool breeze before Mother Nature took her course.
Throughout the day, everyone in attendance fought through the occasional 5 to 10 minute heavy drizzle, but it was the wind that seemed to give the vendor booths the most trouble. Regardless, the aura surrounding the entire event was more than enough to keep everyone's outlook positive and seeing the look on the students' faces as their hard work came to fruition was quite possibly the most memorable part of the festival.
The show went on as several bands took the main stages performing originals as well as classic cover songs in a reggae style. Highlights included Daniel Bambaata Marley, the grandson of the legendary Bob Marley, with a powerful solo performance on the main stage just as the rain started pouring down at its heaviest. By this time, the smaller skate park stage had been shut down due to the rainfall and Santa Ana's Johnny Love was amongst a few of the bands that were lucky enough to play on this stage early in the day.
Amongst the amazing paintings that were coming along courtesy of Al Scholl, Kirk "Paintmouth" O'hara, David Marple and many others, the on-stage collaborations were another element of the festival that made it so special. After what seemed like a good 2 hours without sunlight, you could feel a sense of relief and true happiness as the sun peaked through the dark clouds during The Movement's set. Fans cheered and began dancing with warmth in their chilled bones as rising female artist, Leilani Wolfgramm, joined the band to perform "Habit." Next up were the OC natives, Seedless, whose new keyboard addition truly stood out as they performed their newest single, "Heart of a Warrior." The song could not have come at a better moment as many of those in attendance had not prepared for a day full of rain yet had no intentions of leaving early.
Soon after, the headliners began to close out the festival. Nahko performed a heart-warming solo acoustic set speaking words of true inspiration regarding multiple topics. Female reggae sensation, Hirie, joined Nahko on-stage for a few songs including a powerful verse during "Warrior People" in which she ended by claiming, "I'm just a human being representing for the women." Next, Santa Cruz's The Expendables warmed up the crowd with a mixture of mellow melodies and metal breakdowns. Lastly, the Hawaiian-bred, California-based headliners Pepper ended the festival with their classic high-energy performance infused with comedic dialogue all in support of Autism Awareness.
Although there were a few minor bumps in the road due to the weather conditions throughout the day, the hardships endured stood as a perfect example of what this festival is all about. No matter what problems you may encounter in life, there is always a way to work around it and continue enjoying living in the moment.