by Nicole Gluckstern
Ahhhh, summer in the city, at last. And while there’s no end of street fairs and festivals to while away the extra daytime hours, the flipside to the experience is that some of them can be downright exhausting. From elbow-to-elbow crowds to overflowing porta-potties to mediocre sound engineering, music festivals can be an exercise in a peculiar masochism, forcing one to withstand hours of discomfort for the ephemeral payoff of bragging rights, or a single, incandescent set that makes it all worthwhile. Happily, there are still festivals that exist on a more chill plane, with Phono del Sol, happening this weekend, being one of our faves. SFist caught up with the hive mind behind the curtain (namely Christian Cunningham, Ben Van Houten, and John Vanderslice), to get their thoughts on this most auspicious anniversary.
SFist: From a personal standpoint, how do you feel the festival has evolved or changed?
Phono del Sol: When we started Phono del Sol, the goal was to find a way to showcase amazing local artists in the great (and totally underappreciated!) Potrero del Sol Park located near Tiny Telephone. Seven years in, the festival is bigger than it was when it started, but it still remains true to the original vision, with a ton of amazing local bands and some of our touring favorites providing a great reason to enjoy a day of music, food, and fun.
In terms of the work involved in producing such a festival, how is it divided between The Bay Bridged and Tiny Telephone? Who spearheads what and what is the overall chain of command, particularly your role and the role of Tiny Telephone?
The Bay Bridged spearheads the overall production of the festival, but there’s definitely a shared spirit that we’ve all developed over the years. We all have similar values when it comes to supporting local artists, curating a musically diverse lineup, and keeping the festival affordable and accessible. Every year, we all see what works and doesn’t work, and make little adjustments to make sure that the next year is even better than the previous one.
Tell us a bit about the curation process. How do you folks begin the process and how do you wind up with your lineup? What criteria, if any, are you looking to fill?
Curation is a pretty organic process. It’s really important to make sure that we have a ton of great local artists on the bill. We also want to make sure that the bill is musically diverse, with a mix of different sounds throughout the day. This year, we knew we wanted to bring Thee Oh Sees back after they crushed it at Phono several years ago. We were also really fortunate that Jay Som, one of our favorite local artists, was available to perform. From there, we put together a bill of ten great bands that we feel is our best lineup yet!
There’s always a good mix of favorites at the festival, but who of the newer acts are you most excited about? What about them captures your interest and what should we expect?
There are so many great emerging local bands playing at Phono del Sol, and we’re excited about all of them. But two highlights are sure to be Madeline Kenney and Rayana Jay. Madeline Kenney crafts inventive, looping compositions; she put out an EP on Toro Y Moi’s label last year, and we’re excited hear some songs from her forthcoming album. Rayana Jay’s songwriting suggests she is a future R&B star, and at Phono we get to hear her amazing voice live!
Will there be tours of the Tiny Telephone space again as part of the festival?
John Vanderslice: I wish! I've got a broken ankle and I'm hobbling around on crutches like a jerk. Next year I'll be back at it, and I can show everyone the modular synthesizers we're starting to collect.
Phono Del Sol happens from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. Find tickets here.
Related: Phono Del Sol, SF's Best Low-Key Music Fest, Announces Lineup With Thee Oh Sees, Jay Som, And More