SAN DIEGO -- Bigger and better than ever, San Diego IndieFest returns for its seventh year on March 12-13.
To accommodate larger crowds, the venue has moved from North Park to NTC Promenade at Liberty Station in Point Loma.
The two-day festival will feature the best-undiscovered musical talent and independent films on Saturday from noon to 11 pm, and films only on Sunday from 12:30 to 8 pm.
The brainchild of Danielle LoPresti and Alicia Champion, IndieFest began as a dream that quickly turned into reality.
LoPresti and Champion met in fall 2003 at San Diego’s Dyke March and instantly hit it off; both identify as openly bisexual artists.
They work together musically as creative producers. Champion also is the guitarist and music director for Danielle LoPresti and The Masses.
“I knew we could work well together,” LoPresti said. “When I found out that Alicia was that very rare combination of professionalism and creativity.”
In January 2004, the two began lamenting over producing a Women’s History Month at The Center in March. They were able to produce a successful event, and by April they were putting together the plans for the first IndieFest, which took place in November that same year.
“We wanted to shine a light on all of the artists that are just as good as many famous artists, they just don’t have the backing yet,” LoPresti said.
Both women agreed that ideally people would attend the event for the larger purpose of discovering amazing new music. Early in the creative process, they discussed also making the festival about independent film and art.
“We wanted it to be a totally inclusive gay and straight festival,” Champion said. “Showcase fantastic gay artists alongside mainstream artists and make it a giant celebration of music.”
However, they both recalled that during that first year, the two women were “green” and a “little naïve.”
They did not fully understand and anticipate complications like accepting submissions by mail, getting proper permits from the city, and having enough manpower to pull it off.
“Taking submissions by mail made things really difficult,” LoPresti said. “We had boxes and boxes of stuff and that created such a pain for us.”
They learned their lesson though, and have since streamlined the process by working solely online.
“We also had to learn to ask for help,” Champion said. “During those first two years we pushed ourselves physically to our limits, sustaining injuries. Now we delegate more and have put together a solid team on the production end.”
There were also barriers regarding the integration of LGBT and straight artists.
“We also learned that not everyone liked the idea of having a mainstream event that integrated gay, lesbian and straight musicians,” LoPresti said. “But being on the receiving end of that ignorance let us know we were doing the right thing.
“We cannot just preach to the choir. We need to mix things up and get drag queens on stage in a place that is not Pride. If we get artists out there, people will start to see their humanity. Don’t get me wrong, we love events like Pride, but there is also something radically powerful about having [LGBT] artists on stage at a non-gay event.
“In our community we don’t think of it that way, but for straight folks it is really eye opening and powerful.”
“We totally still have a lot of hurdles to overcome, but most are financial,” LoPresti added. “We work really hard to keep this thing going because we believe in it. It’s more dedication and work than anything else for us.”
In the beginning, LoPresti and Champion had two stages featuring 25 artists. By the second IndieFest, they had six stages and 50 artists. They introduced the Film Festival in its third year, and since than have featured seven stages and well over 100 musicians.
The new venue at Liberty Station has forced them to scale it down to five stages, but they will still have over 150 artists participate in IndieFest 7, and plenty of potential for growth.
“Seeing it grow over the years has felt really good,” LoPresti said. “It’s like nurturing a garden. We now have huge beautiful trees that are yielding fruit.”
The selection process
“We never quite get over the pain of having 400 favorites and whittling it down,” LoPresti said.
To assist them in the process, they have created a committee consisting of musical professionals who are producers, musicians and critics.
“We have a wide spectrum of musical taste,” Champion said. “Every one weighs in with opinions and we see who rises to the top.
“We also have to make sure we have a lot of diversity. There’s always a ton of rock and pop but not a lot of reggae, so we have to make sure we get that and other stuff like country.”
On average, it takes the committee about three months to debate which artists to include.
Aside from supporting LGBT artists, another reason to support IndieFest is that the majority of artists selected are from San Diego.
“We always try to at least get 50% local artists,” LoPresti said. “But we also have artists coming from countries like Columbia, Mexico and Canada, and nationwide as far away as New York.
“People really tend to enjoy our venue. It’s a chance to turn audiences onto new music. If there’s a chance to get up in front of a bunch of people that don’t know you as opposed to playing to a crowd of fans, that’s a festival I want to play.”
LoPresti explained that although they try to give as many new musicians a chance, unique artists like Audible Mainframe are invited to return.
“They are a positive hip hop beach out of Long Beach,” LoPresti said. “They are exceptional in their field. They echo our themes of justice for all, awareness, involvement, getting out of apathy, opening our minds and caring about the future. Plus, they are really good. Year after year no one tops them.”
Audible Mainframe takes the Durga Sound Main Stage at 2 pm. Check them out performing "Something Great" live at the Roxy in Hollywood, Calif., in September 2010:
Also, be sure to cath the performance by Jorge and Alexa Narvaez. LoPresti referred to them as the “cutest” performers at Indiefest 7. They are on the Durga Sound Main Stage at 7:45 pm – check out a preview:
We are Scientists are the Durga Sound Main Stage headliners, check out their music video for “After Hours”
Participating LGBT artists
LoPresti and Champion agree that in addition to great music, there will be plenty of eye candy for males and females.
“We have some great [LGBT] artists,” said LoPresti. “We got Tootie and the Lips girls on main stage; James Marsters, who we hear is a better kisser than Sarah Michelle.
“Love Darling, whose song is the theme song of the 'Real L Word.' And we are also honoring Nancy and Ann of Hillquest for being outstanding role models.”
There is also Amanda Carrington on the film stage as an MC, Sister Speak, Rhythm and a Method, Laura Jane Wilco, and artists like Angie Swan, who has shared the stage with the likes of Lauren Hill and Macy Gray.
James Marsters: “Goodnight Sweet Girl”
Love Darling: “Can’t See”
Rhythm And The Method: “Indigo Children” (live version)
LoPresti and Champion are politically active and support many “indie” organizations.
“As artists we definitely have a lot of that in our music,” Champion said. “We talk about things like domestic violence, environmental issues, the objectification of women, etc.
“When it comes to Indiefiest as whole though, we work hard to keep from polarizing issues, but still integrate a fight for social justice and awareness and helping people finding their voice so they can really make a difference.”
Check out Danielle LoPresti and The Masses’ - “No More No Less” is a musical response to Proposition 8:
View the full music schedule, including links for each participating musician, online.
The future of Indie Fest
IndieFest is very much a labor of love.
LoPresti and Champion want to see it grow, especially now that they have the new location at Liberty Station.
“There are beautiful tall trees, massive fields of grass for people to lay out and enjoy the sun, and cuddle up at night,” LoPresti said. “We definitely want to turn it into the most inspiring weekend of the year where people come and see scores of examples of what people have been able to do on their own with little to no backing.
“We also want to grow a whole literary arm for independent writers, poets, and screenwriters. A culinary arts arm featuring upcoming chefs, and possibly an IndieFest in another city.”
The latter, LePresti acknowledges, would only be possible with a solid team of sponsors. “We definitely do not want to grow past our britches, as it is we’re barely covering ourselves and rely on dozens of volunteers.”
As a non-profit project, IndieFest needs community support, and LoPresti and Champion are willing to accept it up until moments before the show.
Support can be in the way of volunteering, or perhaps a local restaurant would be willing to donate food for the artists and musicians who are taking a break in the green room. There are lot of opportunities for trade.
The Film Stage
When you are ready get off your feet for a moment and out of the sun, head over to the Mental Eclectic Indie Film Stage.
The Mental Eclectic Film Production crew goes through a similar selection process to bring you the best Indie films. Although no films this year have a specific LGBT theme, Amanda Carrington, whose given name is Markus Thomas, will interview filmmakers and celebrities via video.
“In my humble opinion, Markus/Amanda is the epitome of diversity and really fits this year's IndieFest theme of ‘No safety in sameness’,” said Jeanette Di Pinza, film festival coordinator.
The film stage lineup kicks off at noon Saturday, with “Adopting Haiti,” a documentary that shines a light on a side of the Haitian tragedy that few are even aware exists.
With only the clothes on his back, filmmaker Timothy Wolfer follows Tawnya Constantino and a team of dedicated volunteers as they navigated the often dangerous conditions in their struggle to evacuate 135 Haitian orphans and bring them to the United States.
Saturday’s lineup also features a filmmaker’s panel and includes several short films, comedies, thrillers, dramas and feature-length features such as “The Grover Complex,” a comedy about the true measure of man.
Watch “The Grover Complex” preview:
Sunday’s lineup will begin a red carpet ceremony.
In addition to films, it will also feature a music video segment, with the latest music videos from some of IndieFest’s participating musicians like Danielle LoPresti and The Masses’ new single “OBJECTIFY.”
The film festival’s final screening features the newly released Latino romantic comedy, “Gone Hollywood” at 5:15 pm, followed by Q&A with filmmakers and cast at 6:45 pm. Watch the preview:
No film festival would be complete however without an award ceremony. Seven awards will be awarded at the closing ceremony, including Best Feature, Best Short and Best Documentary.
A film panel of judges, with the exception of the Audience Award, chooses all of winners. The ceremony is slated to begin at 7 pm and scheduled to last an hour.
View the full film schedule, including links for each participating musician, online
Tips for making the most of your IndieFest weekend
Tickets and location
You cannot find a better deal in town. For only $25 you get admission to both festival days (that is over 100 acts), the Corvette Diner After Party, and the Film Stage Mixer at Wine Steals.
Tickets can be bought online or at the door.
Are you too broke to buy a ticket? In exchange for volunteering a few hours of your time to help with set-up, security, clean up, etc., you can earn a FREE ticket. Visit the Indiefest website for additional details.
Location:NTC Promenade at Liberty Station, 2640 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA 92106.