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Nature Boy: Left-handed guitar phenom Entrance unleashes a torrent of psychedelia on Henfling's Saturday night.

Forest People

Indian Summer Festival heads to Ben Lomond for a weekend of freak folk and indie rock in the redwoods

By Brian Kennedy

For most people around the country, Labor Day weekend is a last chance to celebrate summer before the clouds roll in to stay. For those of us who live in and around Santa Cruz, though, Labor Day marks the middle of the season as we enjoy another month and a half of perfect beach and camping weather.

To help celebrate this climatic bonanza, Henfling's is hosting three full days of mind-altering sounds with the first annual Ben Lomond Indian Summer Music Festival, organized in collaboration with (((folkYEAH!))). Bringing together over 20 rock and folk acts from the Bay Area and beyond, the festival provides a golden opportunity to get to know some of Northern California's best musical offerings in an intimate forest setting.

Organizer and musician Arvel Hernandez explains the inspiration for this event: "The festival was inspired by a promise to [San Francisco indie-folk musician] Joseph Childress to one day book him a show with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. We didn't get Jack this time around—but almost," he says, adding that he took inspiration from (((folkYEAH!))) events at Fernwood in Big Sur and Totem Music productions in Santa Cruz. Hernandez hopes to repeat the festival once every year.

The first night will feature Corralitos stoner rock heroes Mammatus, which recently concluded its North American tour supporting Japan's Acid Mothers Temple. Mammatus' live lineup often includes two members whose sole job is to wave giant staffs around while the rest of the band plays the heaviest brand of epic psychedelic sludge rock this side of the Rockies. Friday night will also include the folksier side of Grass Valley's own Hella frontman Aaron Ross. Unlike his other raucous math-rock project, Ross will show off his sensitive poetic side with a much more placid acoustic set.

With the help of (((folk-YEAH!))), the festival will also highlight some of the best up-and-coming Bay Area freak-folk performers around today, including Joseph Childress, Wymond and His Spirit Children, Chinatown Bakeries and Sean Smith. Saturday's headliner is Entrance, whose mix of punk, blues and late-1960s-style rock will top off a night filled with freak-folk eccentricity.

Sunday brings the perfect remedy for the inevitable consequences of two nights of inebriated freakiness as headliner Eleni Mandell concludes the festival with her take on folk music, which combines the styles of American singer/songwriters and show tunes. Also performing Sunday is Ruthann Friedman, who wrote the 1960s hit song "Windy" made famous by the Association.

Each day's lineup is as eclectic as the next, and making it to just one of the three days is worth the trek up Highway 9. It's a great way to leave the traffic behind and take in some of the best psychedelic rock and folk acts on the West Coast. Just remember to stay away from the brown acid this time around.

The INDIAN SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL happens Aug. 31–Sept. 2, Friday at 8pm and Saturday–Sunday at 3pm, at Henfling's, 9450 Hwy. 9, Ben Lomond. Tickets are $12–$15 adv/$15–$18 door; 831.336.9318.

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