Guitarfish Music Festival Funk and Fun in the Forest

Los Angeles band Earth Arrow. | Courtesy Earth Arrow

The shady forests and cool waters of the Yuba River is the perfect backdrop for one of the funkiest festivals of the season – Guitarfish Music Festival from July 25 to 28 in Cisco Grove. Producers Brent Dana and Barnett English have curated some funky, soulful, world beat artists with a number of emerging bands that are good — really good.

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English also produces the Joshua Tree Music Festival and is the owner of the Javagogo coffee kiosk, which is a staple at numerous festivals around the country. He is excited about this year’s festival.

July 25-28 | Cisco Grove

“We had 27 percent more people that attended from 2017 to 2018. That’s a radical increase. We are a smaller, intimate festival. Everyone you bump into you want to be friends with. And this year we have a super spicy lineup,” says English.

Cisco Grove Campground has had some major upgrades in its infrastructure, which English says will enhance the overall festival experience for campers. Dana, founder of Guitarfish, also curates the summer music for Concerts on Commons Beach in Tahoe City.

This year the lineup for Guitarfish Music Festival is off the charts. Veteran headliners the California Honeydrops, Afrolicious and Kinky bring their stellar talent while a host of bands make their festival debut. Three newcomers to the festival include Earth Arrow, Diggin Dirt and The Humidors.

Earth Arrow

Earth Arrow guitarist Edgar Hernandez formed the band in 2016. He grew up in South Central L.A. and saw firsthand the devastation of gang violence and poverty in his community.

“People underestimate the gang culture that permeates the streets. The blacks and Latinos did not get along. I saw race riots in school between black and brown students,” says Hernandez the son of immigrants: his mother emigrated from Mexico and his father fled the civil war in El Salvador.

The eight member Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, dance band members write their own music, which highlights issues of race, politics and self-empowerment. The band is rooted in the community and supports anti-gang violence and black and brown unity.

“There is no live music in South Central. How do young people learn to be artists or learn to grow or get inspired? Our mission is bringing the light to the plight,” says Hernandez. Influenced by greats such as Santana and Jimi Hendrix, the members of Earth Arrow make music with a message and a beat that grooves and gets the audience up and dancing.

Diggin Dirt

Funk and soul band Diggin Dirt comes to the festival by way of Arcata. Lead singer Zach Alder joined the band three years ago. He met the other band members in what he called a twist of fate, while playing a gig with a different band. He joined Diggin Dirt.

“I put down my guitar and started singing. The guitar was a shield in front me. All of sudden I was vulnerable and naked in front of crowd of people,” he says.

The seven-member band includes Alder on vocals, two saxophone players, a drummer, two guitarists and a bass player, who are all part of the writing process. The band is influenced by funk greats such as James Brown, Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone. Diggin Dirt’s latest album, “Funkacillus Groovidophilus,” which was released in March.

Alder is not only humble, he’s extremely grateful to be part of the band. When he’s not touring with Diggin Dirt he works in with developmentally challenged adults.

“I just want people to have fun, be silly and take a break from the things that need our attention,” he says.

The wildly fun, funk band has been on the run; they had 80 gigs last year and a busy first half of this year. Get ready to funk around with these Guitarfish newcomers.

The Humidors

Lead singer Andre Cruz of the Bay Area-based band The Humidors is passionate about being part of the eight-member band. He found his way to them after attending a show at The Chapel in San Francisco to hear Midtown Social — another awesome band performing at Guitarfish. Cruz reached out to The Humidors after the show to see if he could sit in with the band.

“I was really into what they were doing and loved their soul and funk sound,” he says.

It was shortly after his musical trajectory shifted from rock and roll to some serious funk and soul. He’s been part of the band for the last three years. It’s afforded him the opportunity “to express a side of myself that brings out the soul and funk of who I am.” Although admittedly shy, Cruz has been singing all his life. During vocal lessons he found his voice and calling. He manages his shy side by going inward before a performance; then he lets it all out on stage.

“I’ve not stopped dancing on stage since,” says Cruz.

The Humidors are having a good time jamming out and look forward to bringing some funky soulful vibes to Guitarfish.

There are a number of bands also making their Guitarfish debut and these emerging bands are not to be missed. Guitarfish Music Festival continues to promote feel-good vibes in the forests of Cisco Grove and promises to get participants out and dancing as if their life depended on it. | guitarfishfestival.com