In the U.S., May is about to end in a whirlwind of excitement. We have certainly missed San Francisco Popfest, haven’t we? This year, the West Coast event is back and with an incredible international lineup, bringing the Bay Area fans what the organizers are calling “four epic days of indie pop magic.” With bands like Rocketship, The Softies, The Zebras, Boyracer, and Lunchbox to name but a few of the acts, Memorial Day weekend is bound to be just that: indiepop magic.
Occurring in various venues throughout the city, San Francisco Popfest will take place from the 22nd through the 25th of May. One of this year’s new organizers, Josh Yule, answered a few questions about his experiences with setting up SF Popfest for the very first time.
Can you give us a history of San Francisco Popfest (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
I believe SF popfest goes all the way back to either ’98 or ’99. I was recently talking to Mario of Kids on a Crime Spree (SLR & popfest alums) who is one of the original organizers. He mentioned how it started and how at first it was just a bi-yearly event. I recently noticed in a past-shows link for The Aislers Set where they had 7/8 1999 as playing with Rocketship for the SF Popfest. So we have some proof this thing has been around for quite sometime now. Aaron took on the event for the remainder of the years and had some great lineups.
How I got involved was Aaron had approached a friend of mine that I did a monthly with here in SF, called shine on, about helping out and DJing a few of the popfest events. We of course graciously accepted and, from what I understand, Aaron retired and passed the torch on to us. I hope to run into him at some of the shows this year!
What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
The process is not too intense or choosey. We just approach bands we would like to see and hope the rest of the Bay Area feels the same as we do. Of course we stay genre specific, and this year I did get a few submissions from bands to play that in my opinion had never heard of the SF popfest prior, and for that matter, probably thought the word twee was just a misspelling of the word tweet.
What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing SF Popfest?
I have definitely found a few more grey hairs on my head, but have learned to take a step back when things get too out of control. After all, this is strictly for fun for me. It is not a job. Ya know some people collect hot dog paraphernalia and some people like to book popfest shows. I just happen to enjoy doing both as a hobby. But as far as what it has taught me, I have learned that all these people playing these shows genuinely love the indie scene and do it for the music, not the money. I look up to some of these bands more than I did in the ’90s now, and I feel as though I have made some really fantastic new friends in these last few months.
When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
Well, last year, I was a little wet behind the ears and learned to start earlier. So from here on out new years day is when I will get started. Actually, today, I was contacted by one of my favorite Scottish indie pop bands about them possibly playing next year. I can’t say who it is yet, as I do not want to curse it, but it’s pretty awesome!!
Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Be sure to apply lots of sunscreen and keep well hydrated when attending Coachella.
Popfest attendees who purchase four-day passes will also receive a limited-edition cassette featuring rare tracks from this year’s line up. That sounds like incentive to me! Additional information regarding those four-day passes, individual tickets, bands, and participating venues can be found at the SF Popfest website.