In 2007, the Desert Stars Festival bloomed in the Mojave Desert, offering a festival experience that was intimate, curated, and indie. I spoke with Desert Stars and Starry Nites cofounders Tommy Dietrick and Kerry Brown about what made S.B. an ideal place to achieve a similar festival.
Tell me about the inspiration behind the festival. Where did the idea come from?
TD: The story of Starry Nites actually begins back in the summer of 2007 and over 200 miles away from Santa Barbara in the beautiful high desert community of Joshua Tree … With Desert Stars, we set out to build a weekend music festival that was humble in size and yet grand in scope, a style of event that favored intimacy and curation over large-scale music festival culture … We even went so far as to intentionally blur lines between audience members and the bands. Starry Nites was born of this same fabric — the belief that community can build and flourish when the core of this thread is human connection and re-establishing our bonds to the planet.
There are lots of festivals on the market now versus two decades ago. What makes the ones you have organized stand out, and/or what are the challenges in standing out in a festival market?
TD: In the early 2000s, we saw this emergence happening with big festivals. A lot of these type of events were not open to having the lesser known acts on their bills. Our approach is different. Alongside our headliners, we handpick up-and-coming acts and independent artists, as well as local artists, so that attendees can discover new music.
What environmental/eco-conscious aspects are you most excited about?
TD: We have the very fortunate inclusion of Obscura Digital’s “Fire Eyes” visual installation. Chief creative officer of Obscura Digital Travis Threlkel, who is responsible for last year’s world-acclaimed “Endangered Species” visual projection on the Empire State Building, has created a new program for Starry Nites that incorporates this emphasis. He will utilize the mountains and make them come alive as well as the Oak trees themselves. It’s on all of us to stop and think about what we stand to lose when we act in ways which directly or indirectly harm the other inhabitants of our planet.
What music acts are you most excited about?
KB: This is really a dream lineup for us. We are both really looking forward to seeing this entire show from The Kills to Alan Parsons and Cat Power to The Dandy Warhols, She Wants Revenge, Black Mountain, and Teenage Fanclub — plus we have the 50-year anniversary show of Strawberry Alarm Clock, who have not performed in Santa Barbara since the summer of love in 1967!
Think about a time you yourself went to a festival and what made that festival-going experience so special … How do you hope to emulate that for festival-goers at Starry Nites?
KB: My favorite festival experiences are those that leave me feeling like I just spent the weekend with the best of friends. Some of my favorite festival moments for me are when I meet people who I know will stay in touch with me even after the event has ended. Between that and seeing my favorite artists perform onstage and simply being able to escape the city and daily routines — that’s a pretty happy place for me.