After a successful festival, ‘IndieFest’ makes City Heights homeEntertainment Feature, Entertainment News, Section 4A Thursday, April 16th, 2015
LGBT Weekly talks to IndieFest cofounders Alicia Champion and Danielle LoPresti on the success of their move to City Heights
“I have seen the transformative power of culture as a driving force for positive and social change, and I can attest to the singular effect San Diego IndieFest had on the early years of North Park’s renaissance,” so said California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins describing the impact the iconic music festival had on the area.
Having started out in Bankers Hill in 2004, IndieFest made its way through North Park, then Liberty Station to finally land in City Heights at the end of March 2015.
The fit between the music festival and location was perfect as diversity has always been a cornerstone of IndieFest and the community of City Heights has the proud distinction of being the most culturally diverse community in the entire nation.
Among the acts that appeared were Cameron Wright, a 22-year-old singing phenom with a four-octave vocal range; Mayfield, a high energy, hard hitting folk rock band from San Diego; The Lyrical Groove, the 2014 San Diego Music Award winner for Best Hip Hop Album; Rigoberto Gutierrez, a top-8 finalist on La Voz Mexico, Mexico’s edition of The Voice; Gill Sotu, the 2012 and 2013 RAW Performing Artist of The Year; Annika Marks, who plays Monte Porter in ABC Family’s groundbreaking family drama, The Fosters; New York chart-toppers, Bear Hands and local favorites Danielle LoPresti & The Masses led by activist rocker and IndieFest co-founder LoPresti herself.
“The event began for a few reasons,” said LoPresti. “People would come up to us after a show and say, ‘That was amazing. Why have I never heard of you?’ or, ‘Why aren’t you guys famous yet?’ While it was a compliment, it was also frustrating, because we knew then, as we do now, that fame is not the measure of talent. There are literally thousands of truly brilliant artists, thinkers and change-makers out there, who you and I have never heard of. They simply haven’t been in the lucky, tiny minority who land a big record deal or whose book/project/video has gone viral.”
Moving to City Heights felt like a kind of homecoming for LoPresti and partner and co-founder Alicia Champion and the pair both wondered why it took them so long to get there.
“We haven’t felt this positive and inspired by a location since our early years in North Park,” enthused LoPresti. “We hope to stay here for a very long time.”
Justifying their choice of location LoPresti said, “More and more of us are flocking to the big box mega-stores and restaurants every year. But if we don’t want our beautiful communities to look like every other in Strip Mall, USA, we’ve got to patronize our local indies! It’s our local coffee houses, farmer’s markets, restaurants, co-ops, art galleries, book and record stores, non-profits, etc. that help create the culture of a place. IndieFest works hard to bring this point home, and since moving to our own ‘hood, we’ve experienced more support from the indies themselves than we have in our entire history. It’s feeling really good.”
A number of reasons contributed to IndieFest finding its home in City Heights. By IndieFest8 in 2013, LoPresti had been battling and beating a rare form of cancer, the couple were now moms and they were being courted by some of the biggest festival producers in the country, who, as it turned out, were interested in partnering with IndieFest on the condition that they go “big” and move the event to the summer.
“We were neck deep in chemotherapy at that time, and allowed ourselves to go with the idea, thinking that perhaps these well-meaning folks knew something we didn’t,” confided Champion. “By the end of IndieFest 8, we walked away having learned a very powerful, albeit painful lesson – we knew how to produce our event in our city. We had been growing slowly, summer was definitely not the time for an event like ours and we’d actually made a pretty decent choice all those years making it the first big music and arts event of the calendar year.”
LoPresti took up the story, “So we took 2014 off to regroup and decide if we wanted to continue. Producing this non-profit love project while working as full time musicians was no party. But doing it now as moms was hard core painful. So we narrowed it down to one question, ‘Can we find a way to make producing IndieFest sustainable?’
“Around this time the recent rash of profiling and deaths of unarmed African American men had our bellies in knots,” continued LoPresti. “Racism, homophobia, sexism, injustice of all kinds has been something we’ve used every IndieFest– and so many songs – to fight. But now that we are raising our own beautiful, black son, there is a whole new level of urgency to our advocacy. That’s when we had the idea of scaling way down and moving the event to our own ‘hood of City Heights.”
“Toni Atkins, our State Assembly Speaker, was very outspoken in her praise of IndieFest as a key player in the revitalization of North Park,” added Champion. “So we thought, ‘If we could do it there, we can do it even better here – in our own neighborhood.’”
Annika Marks, of ABC Family’s The Fosters, who screened two episodes from her new short film PSA series about water conservation, Stay Filthy, Cali at the festivalcited the success of this year’s IndieFest and her positive experience of the festival. “I had a wonderful time,” said Marks. “San Diego IndieFest isa true independent festival which is something we need more of. To me the purpose of a festival is to celebrate the independent spirit and the causes that bring creative minds together – not to make a profit as much as to make a difference. The music, art, food, community, film and energy at San Diego IndieFest are completely energizing – ego-less and inspiration-full.”
For now, LoPresti and Champion are going to take a big long break, well a break because it’s tough to keep this hard-working couple down. “Yes! We’ve got some projects in the wings that have been put off by all the ‘Life’ that happened to us,” said Champion. “A month before Danielle was diagnosed with Stage 3B Lymphoma, we had just concluded a successful crowdfunding campaign for our next record – “House of D” – a mix of deep house/ chill-out electronica (think more Morcheeba, Zero 7, Massive Attack – not EDM). Since Danielle reached remission, we’ve been slowly back to writing for that. We hope to release that this year. If all goes according to schedule, we’ll also attempt a small Holiday EP before gearing up for IndieFest 10.”
IndieFest 10 – the anticipation is already building, summed up in four words from Annika Marks when we asked her if she would come back to San Diego IndieFest in the future:
“I would love to,’’ she said with a smile!
For information and to keep up-to-date on IndieFest developments go to:
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