Oakland Weekender will showcase the Bay Area’s deeply connected music scene

Umbrellas Photo: Courtesy of Umbrellas

In the age of the internet, where musical ideas can be exchanged with the click of a mouse and bands have members on opposite ends of the country, the concept of a local scene can almost seem obsolete. But with Oakland Weekender — a three-day festival kicking off Thursday, June 23 at the Golden Bull Bar — there’s no substitute for the creativity that proximity provides.

More than a dozen bands take part in the first East Bay festival, and almost all share some kind of affiliation. Many acts claim common band members, most are signed to the same label (Slumberland Records, a long-time Oakland institution, or Arizona-based Emotional Response Records) and the majority reside in the Bay Area.

Take San Francisco janglepop band The Umbrellas, for example. The group’s self-titled debut album, released in 2021 on Slumberland Records, received praise from the national press, buoyed in part by the infectious power-pop number “Galine”, an ode to Galine Tumasyan, the founding member of Seablite, a San Francisco shoegaze band who will also be at Oakland Weekender. Seablite drummer Andy Pastalaniec is himself the only man behind Chime School, another Slumberland-signed band that features on the line-up for the three-day festival.

Seablite Photo: Courtesy of Seablite

“There’s definitely a lot of overlap here,” said Seablite guitarist Lauren Matsui, who splits her time playing bass for the Neutrals, also playing Oakland Weekender. “I mean, everyone plays in everyone’s band. If you see a new musician out there, you almost get confused – like, ‘Who is this, and why aren’t they playing in five million bands like the rest of us?’

Matt Ferrara, guitarist and singer of The Umbrellas, sees the synergy as “a very healthy thing”.

“When you go see one of your friends’ bands play and you see something new, you start thinking, ‘Oh, we could do something like that.’ It’s friendly competition,” he said. “Everyone is unique in their own way, but there are definitely things that inspire us seeing other bands.”

While many of these bands are relatively new incarnations, their members have been focal points of the local music scene for years. Glenn Donaldson, the creative visionary behind San Francisco Reds indie pop band Pinks & Purples, has been a mainstay for countless Bay Area bands. Pastalaniec’s debut as Chime School came out in 2021, but he’s been drumming in other collectives for a decade. And Oakland’s famed noise pop band Artsick is just guitarist Christina Riley’s latest venture.

Glenn Donaldson of Reds, Pinks and Purples. Photo: courtesy of Glenn Donaldson

The musicians have all remained in the Bay Area despite numerous upheavals – noted Mario Hernandez, frontman of Kids on a Crime Spree and one of the organizers of Oakland Weekender.

“There’s definitely been another tidal wave, one in many over the past 30-plus years in the Bay Area and beyond,” said Hernandez, who also plays at Artsick. “Historically, I think it’s safe to say that great art happens during politically difficult times. Whether it’s Trump and right-wing fascism, the great exodus of working-class artists from San Francisco and from Oakland to more affordable pastures, or from a global pandemic, we are the tenacious ticks that have dug in and thrived.

The event’s lineup certainly has an aesthetic underpinning – an affinity for combining emotional guitar-based compositions with snyth atmospheric flourishes – but there’s enough variation in each band’s sounds to create an intriguing experience. Every band has a knack for a catchy hook, but sometimes those earworms are buried under dissonance (Seablite) and sleepwalking haze (Cindy), or elevated with the overflowing exuberance of 12-string guitars (Chime School).

“That’s why it’s so fun to play with all these bands,” Tumasyan said. “None of us are alike, but we all make sense together.”

Oakland Weekend: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday June 23-25. $20 to $60. Golden Bull, 412 14th St., Oakland. www.eventbrite.com


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