Festival Season Returns: How a Bay Area Production Company is Bringing Independent Festivals Back in a Big Way.

Olivia Monahan

"What were you doing when the world shut down?"

After two years of a pandemic, it's inevitable that most of us have an answer for that question. Like the Kennedy assassination, the bombings on 9/11, or any other historically significant moment that changed or defined a generation; an entire globe effectively shutting down complete with food and supply shortages, a virus that spread like wildfire, and a total inability to combat it will forever be a moment that changed everything.

What were you doing when the world shut down? I can tell you honestly that I was planning for my favorite time of year. The season I look forward to more than any other.

Festival season.

Beginning in February and ending in October (thanks California weather), festival season is a time where music lovers collectively come together to celebrate music, the artists, the fans, and the culture that is created around this universal language known as music. Each festival comes with its own personality, its own themes, its own carefully crafted curated line up. Hours and hours of blood, sweat, and frustration poured into each event, which usually spans between 2-3 days, 12 hours a day, rain or shine. All to create joy for the hundreds and thousands of people who attend.

One company, Ungaffable Productions, is bringing festival season back in a big way for California with the Smoked Out Spring BBQ: A two day festival taking place April 8th and 9th at the historic Monterey County Fairgrounds. With a hip-hop heavy line up that pays homage to the Bay Area production company's home base, (so far E40, Too Short and P Lo have all been announced) combined with cannabis, comedy, and copious amounts of delicious food being offered over the weekend, the Smoked Out Spring BBQ promises to be an epic return to festival season for the region.

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Preliminary Line Up - Smoked Out Spring BBQ 2022Provided by Tony Garcia

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK, THEY'VE BEEN HERE FOR YEARS

Partners Tony Garcia, Andrew Heron, and Ryan Murphy founded Ungaffable Productions in 2017. Having each spent years individually working behind the scenes of various live events and absorbing the knowledge that came along with the experience, they collectively decided to branch out on their own, and create their own vision for the kind of live events they wanted to see.

In that time they have hosted a multitude of events such as the Dry Diggings Festival and The Reggae Campout, as well as assisted with the overall vision of the Cali Roots festival. The Smoked Out BBQ series however, was their first foray into a major hip hop festival. In the summer of 2018, the Smoked Out Summer BBQ made it's way to the Oakland Metro Opera House.

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Dead Prez at the 1st Smoked Out BBQProvided by Tony Garcia

With artists such as Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Evidence, Murs, and The Grouch & Eligh along for the inaugural voyage, the festival was an underground hip hop head's wet dream. The next year saw a similar situation, with Griselda, The Nappy Roots, Twista, Zion-I and Equipto rounding out a two day line up. Each incarnation got bigger, which meant that the 2020 lineup was going to blow the last two out of the water.

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Twista at the second Smoked Out BBQProvided by Tony Garcia

But, as is the theme for everything in the last two years, COVID hit. The team was forced to proverbially shelve their existence as they watched the world come to a grinding halt, with live music being one of the first, and longest casualties of the shutdown.

"The ride hasn't been an easy one," Tony Garcia recalls as he ruminates over the last two years, "especially for independent promoters and venues. We are lucky enough that we had a couple big jobs come through in 2021 to help carry us into now. But so many folks had to close their doors, or shut down productions, because of how unpredictable this virus is. But we had a vision, and we wanted to see it through. No matter how long that took."

That vision is coming (back) to life in a major way with the Smoked Out Spring BBQ.

MUSIC AND CANNABIS AND FOOD? OH MY.

While hip hop is heavy on the menu, it isn't the only thing that the U.P. team is bringing to the table with the Smoked Out Spring. Partnering with various chefs, comedians, and cannabis connoisseurs, the group has put together a fully interactive experience that will allow festival goers to eat, smoke, and listen their way through two full days of events all centered around one theme.

Finding the joy again.

"People don't just go to a show now. There are too many festivals competing for people's attention. They don't just want a show. They want a full on experience. We can't just give them music, we have to give them a little bit of everything."

That "everything" the team is providing just so happens to include some of the creature comforts that many of us partook in for the length of the lockdown. Having collectively just spent two years at home listening to music, smoking to ease our anxiety, and making food to compliment it all as we were all forced to cook a little more than usual, those who are hesitant to leave the house will find all the things to make us feel right at home. At the same time, with the event being outdoors at the spacious Monterey County Fairgrounds, the Smoked Out Spring BBQ will also give festival goers the opportunity to put their mind at ease in terms of social distancing, while still giving them the chance to feel connected to artists and fellow fans for the first time in months.

"I would love to say that I'm not nervous, but that would be a lie." Garcia admits, "We don't have investors or government loans to fall back on like a lot of these multi-million dollar corporate festivals do. We spend our own time and our own money to put these events on because we love it. Is it worth it? Yes. To me it is worth it. Seeing it grow is an amazing thing. We have all taken our share of losses, but the wins? The support of the fans, and the reactions of the artists? That's what keeps us coming back for more. We want to build something that we can be proud of. That the fans can be proud of. That the artists can be proud to be a part of. We're one of the only 'mom and pop' production companies going up against the corporate giants. We plan to keep it that way, with the support of the fans, for years to come."

THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, AND WHERE

Who: E40, Too Short, P Lo, DaBoii, Jay Worthy and more TBA.

What: The Smoked Out Spring BBQ

When: April 8th-9th, 2022

Where: Monterey County Fairgrounds

Purchase tickets online HERE.

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Olivia Monahan is a Sacramento based Chicana journalist and editor whose work critically examines the dynamics of art, culture and politics with a focus on active participation over passive observation. As both a writer and editor, she values and activates instances of connection in the content and presents readers with equal parts truth and reflection.

Sacramento, CA
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