News Column

Guitarfish inspires with music as well as environmental message

July 26, 2013


July 26--Tahoe music producer Brent Dana always aspired to start his own music festival, but taking the plunge and launching Guitarfish Music Festival, which enters its third season at Cisco Grove this weekend, still required one heck of a fish tale.

In this case, that fish tale literally inspired the festival. Penned by longtime pal and musician Jimmy Leslie, the self-published e-book revolves around a group of aquatic creatures that attempt to rock out as a musical band while evading the dual threats of pollution and overfishing.

Dana said he was struck by the story, called "Guitarfish Adventures Volume 1.0: Blue Is the New Green," because it united upbeat music with an important environmental message.

He quickly realized that the same idea could be applied to a music festival.

"When (Jimmy) came up with the idea of the book, I thought it kind of just went hand-in-hand with a festival," Dana said. "We could have a festival with a cause, with a blue cause. There's a lot of green causes, but we wanted to learn ourselves and teach others about how we can be more respectful and more conscious to our blue water needs.

"And I thought we could do it with music, and create a really fun vibe."

Like the story upon which its name has been drawn, the festival seeks to maintain a careful balance between entertainment and education.

Headlining the three-day event, which starts today, are the Pimps of Joytime, a funk and groove band whose music is influenced both by the DJ culture of Brooklyn and the raw sounds of New Orleans; Orgone, a Los Angeles-based musical group that draws on sounds from 1960s and 1970s-era funk and soul; and rapper and UC Davis grad Lyrics Born, whose birth name is Tom Shimura.

Dana said he has a formula drawn from 20 years' experience as a music promoter that helps him decide which artists to book.

"I definitely like to bring funky bands and talented players," he said. "Stuff that makes you move and let go for a while and have a good time. The type of music that brings just a real happy, positive vibe. "

Perhaps just as important as the artists are the organizations that will host informational booths during the festival.

UC Davis' Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the sustainable seafood advocacy group Fish Revolution and the conservation-minded Blue Turtle will be at the event to educate attendees about environmental issues.

Sustainable Tahoe, a nonprofit aimed at eco-friendly tourism, is a joint partner of the event and the umbrella that affords Guitarfish Music Festival tax-deductible status.

"I think one of the things that a lot of festivals are doing now, which I think is so awesome, is they function on a variety of levels and on a variety of planes," said Shimura, who has performed at other environmentally focused events such as Outside Lands. "So not only are we there to have fun, but we are also educators. And that's fantastic. You really can't get much better than that. There's something divine in that to me, you know?"

This intersection between entertainment and education will probably be most evident at the festival in a performance by multi-instrumentalist and award-winning educator Joe Craven of Dixon. Craven has planned an appearance from his 12-year-old daughter, Hattie, during his performance.

"It's really natural, and it's very organic," Craven said about performing with his daughter. Festivals are like a family, he said, "because when you are talking about a festival, you are also talking about the family of the festival itself, which is all the people in attendance at the event."

Beyond musical and environmental education, there will be plenty of party dancing.

"We are going to bring some energy, and we are going to make it funky," said Brian J, band leader of the Pimps of Joytime.

"We are really going to put it down."


When: Today-Sunday; box office opens at 10 a.m. today

Where: Cisco Grove Campground, 48415 Hampshire Rocks Road, Cisco Grove

Cost: $75-$155

Information: (530) 426-1600;


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