Santa Cruz Music Festival Rolls With the Tide

photo by Stefan Poulos Photography

Santa Cruz Music Festival hit us with wave after wave of unexpected surprises. SCMF, in its fifth year, celebrated significant improvements from its venues, to its organization. The intimate two-day fest spared no expense to cultivate a lineup that fit Santa Cruz just right.

The festival spread across roughly 10 blocks in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. With stages in bars, music shops, music venues, and even a 70’s style gym! Santa Cruz Music Festival suffered last year due to overcrowding of the ever famous Catalyst. However, this year they stepped up and added a larger venue, Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to accommodate the individuals who hoped to catch the headliners. Getting in and out of venues, with the exception of the club Motive which experienced long lines by dawn, access to venues was a piece of cake!

Santa Cruz Music Festival also had several streets blocked off for vendors to showcase their stuff. Selling everything from Third Eye Pinecones to onesies! For some, the onesies really came in handy for the onesie bar crawl. SCMF had several different events that people could participate in, in order to make a more immersive experience for the festival goers. From interactive forums on sustainability, to Ableton live sessions, to yoga; SCMF pulled out all the stops to make it worth our while.

Music Highlights

Photo by Steven David Gard


Florida based 20-year-old producer K?D has never disappointed when it comes to throwing down an amazing set and Santa Cruz was no exception. K?D somehow managed to create flawless transitions between songs rarely grouped together. Imagine listening to the heavy bass of a filthy dubstep track, and transitioning into San Holo’s Light. Although I cannot explain how he was able to pull it off, K?D brought the house down! His set easily topped the charts for many over the weekend.

Photo by Jack Strutz

Mr. Carmack:

Your favorite producer’s favorite producer, Mr. Carmack is a legend among the Soundcloud community, and for good reason. After releasing banger after banger through SoundCloud in a matter of hours, Mr. Carmack came to be revered by all. Mr. Carmack pulls influences from a culmination of different genres, which is clearly identifiable in his sets. No two sets are the same when seeing Mr. Carmack, which is one of the reasons it is always exciting to see him perform. SCMF was no exception, Mr. Carmack played all kinds of music from heavy bass, to dirty trap. It was certainly one for the books.

Unknown Photographer


Amber Giles aka Mija also boasts versatility in her sets. Although Mija has produced and remixed tracks like Better and Middle, Amber also has a large affinity for house and DnB. At Santa Cruz Music Festival, Mija chose to keep with the theme of artists who had previously taken the stage and played a set with almost exclusively House music (with a couple DnB tracks sprinkled in between). The crowd had a positive response and got right down with her, especially since many of them were sporting Dirtybird jackets.

The VIP section:

So is the bang worth the buck? The VIP section had an open bar, and some free food that was quickly devoured before most people had a chance to grab any. It often got cramped with so many people trying to grab a drink that it often felt stifling. During the second night, the VIP section ran out of hard liquor and only served beer. If SCMF is able to improve on this aspect of the festival, I think it could certainly be a game changer! For now, I would say save your money!

The Atmosphere

Santa Cruz’s biggest strength is its laid-back atmosphere. It is a town that seems to slow its roll comparatively to the rest of the Bay Area, and forces everyone to take a chill pill. Santa Cruz Music Festival certainly adopted that vibe and used it to their advantage. Everyone was extremely friendly, from the artists to the people on the street. SCMF was easily one of the most relaxing festivals out there. Staying in Santa Cruz was an easy way to relieve all the pent up stress from the long week.

Overall, SCMF has certainly learned its lesson from years past and is continuing to shape up into the festival it has aspired to be. With its continued upward trajectory in terms of its lineup, organization, and response to constructive criticism, SCMF is definitely a festival that I cannot miss next year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *