WEST COAST SPOTLIGHT: Carlsbad Music Festival

by Maggie Stapleton

Beer garden, food trucks, adventurous music by the beach? Yes, please, all of it.


That’s what you’ll get at the Carlsbad Music Festival, the brainchild of Matt McBane: a 3-day summer music festival in his hometown of Carlsbad, California. McBane is no stranger to Second Inversion listeners and blog readers, who have undoubtedly heard his compositions recorded by Build and the Jake Schepps Quintet on our 24/7 stream. He’s twice been featured on our regular “Staff Picks,” blog posts for pieces “imaginary winter” and “On and On and”. This year’s festival is happening this weekend, August 26-28 with over 60 shows!

With an eye toward embracing the entire west coast a bit more, we have a snapshot of our wish-we-could-be-there picks for CMF, whose programming is very well aligned with Second Inversion’s: an eclectic mix of creative and adventurous music ranging from contemporary classical, to indie rock, to world music, to electronic, to jazz, to musicians who work across genres and fall between the cracks.If you’re in the vicinity of Carlsbad, get yourself there over the weekend to catch one of these fantastic performances!

MATT MCBANE AND FRIENDS: Friday, August 26, 7:00-7:30pm


Festival Founder and composer/violinist Matt McBane and friends perform his critically-acclaimed suite of compositions for bluegrass string band, “Drawn.” concert program and more info

“a natural composer, a fresh voice and, from the evidence of his festival, a first-rate organizer with a broad range of musical interests” -Los Angeles Times

WILD UP perform FUTURE FOLK: Friday, August 26, 8:00-9:15pm


Modern music collective slash chamber orchestra wild Up creates a communal concert of sound/noise/experience that celebrates old-world ways of living in the modern era. Featuring works by Meredith Monk, Julius Eastman, members of the ensemble and more. concert program and more info

“All the performances, led by Rountree, were exceptional, the ensemble turning on an astonishing stylistic dime.” -Los Angeles Times

LA PERCUSSION QUARTET: Saturday, August 27, 5:00-6:00pmdownload

Grammy-nominated LA Percussion Quartet performs newly commissioned music by Ellen Reid, Daniel Bjarnason, Kevin Volans, and a west-coast premiere by Matt McBane for triangle quartet. concert program and more info

“mesmerizing.., colorful, atmospheric and…supremely melodic music.” -New York Times

HOCKET: Sunday, August 28, 1:00-2:00pm

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LA-based contemporary piano duo HOCKET comprised of composer-pianists Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff, performs recent works written for the group including world premieres by Alexander Elliott Miller and Michael Laurello, plus their arrangements of Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th and Nanou 2, concert program and more info

“Their teamwork was exemplary, their playing was a delight… They not only showed a commitment to the music, but to communicating with each other.” -San Diego Union-Tribune

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Matt McBane

“a natural composer, a fresh voice and, from the evidence of his festival, a first-rate organizer with a broad range of musical interests” -Los Angeles Times

Matt McBane founded the Carlsbad Music Festival in his hometown of Carlsbad in 2004. In addition, he is a composer whose music ranges from visceral rhythms and complex grooves to delicate melodies and rich textures, freely and intuitively incorporating a wide array of influences including: minimalism, avant pop, experimentalism, European classical music, art rock, jazz, film music, fiddle music and electronic music. He is the composer and violinist for his band Build which received widespread critical acclaim for its two albums (Place 2011 and Build 2008) on New Amsterdam Records. In 2015 his 5 movement suite for bluegrass string band “Drawn” was released on the Jake Schepps Quintet’s album “Entwined” which was selected as a top album of the year by Colorado Public Radio. He is currently a Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Jake Schepps Quintet: “Entwined”

by Rachele Hales


When I saw Jake Schepps’ latest album sitting in the review pile I chuckled a little remembering an old joke told to me by a friend after I chose the music of Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs as accompaniment on our long road trip:

Friend: Can you read music?

Banjo Player: Not enough to hurt my playing.

Schepps didn’t start playing the banjo until he was 21, which is ancient considering most classical virtuosos are practically born playing their instrument.  Why the banjo?  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Schepps says, “There are a lot of guitar players out there, but the banjo is different.”

Entwined is not his first ambitious banjo project, but he’s done something unique here by commissioning classically-trained composers to write music meant for a traditional bluegrass string band (banjo, guitar, violin, mandolin, and bass).  The result is progressive, mature, and fun to listen to.  “Everybody wrote pieces to their personalities,” says Schepps, “and I think that this variety really makes a big statement about how much potential there is with the string band for playing new music.”

Like what you hear? Buy it here!

The disc opens with Flatiron, a set of eight pieces composed by Marc Mellits that start with exuberance and capriciousness before relaxing into poise and serenity.  He takes us out of the series with “Dreadnought,” a lively piece that will make you want to grab a pair of spoons and play along on your knee.

Matt McBane is up next with Drawn, a beautiful five-movement composition in which gentle strumming gets stretched almost to minimalism.  Drawn takes typical bluegrass style out of its stiff denim jeans and lets the bareness of it spin and sway across an expansive wilderness.

Matt Flinner, a banjo prodigy and acclaimed mandolin player, returns us to the spirit of bluegrass in Migrations.  He’s ramped up classic Appalachian folk elements and created pieces more balladic than anything else on Entwined.

Gyan Riley concludes the album with something distinct.  Stumble Smooth, which Schepps calls “the burliest piece of music I’ve ever worked on in my life,” draws influence from bluegrass for sure, but also from modernism and free jazz.  The slow buildup highlights the percussive capabilities of the banjo before the piece evolves into what sounds like a fun, frenzied jam session.

Entwined is an adventurous project that champions the versatility of the bluegrass ensemble.  Schepps and his collaborators have given us a loosened-up bluegrass collection that even modern classical lovers will enjoy.  The only question I have is… have you hugged your banjo today?