Punk Love. “It actually started as a joke,” says Kyle Pagel. He is a promoter of punk shows and part owner of an indie punk label in Riverside called Muy Autentico. “There’s a guy we call Mattie Awesome. We heard he was gonna be in town for one of our shows, so we decided to call it the Mattie Awesomefest.” That was 2007. Pagel says the following year Mattie Awesomefest had morphed into an all-day happening with ten bands. “We dropped the Mattie, and we just called it the Awesomefest.”
In 2009, Awesomefest moved to San Diego, to North Park, in part because the majority of the festival’s promoters (there are about ten) are based here and in part, Pagel says, because “Riverside is just a dead environment.”
“By moving to San Diego we were able to expand venues,” says Pagel, “and to make the event national. We’ve got friends flying in from all over just because it’s in San Diego.”
Now in its fifth year, Awesomefest is spread out over three days and four venues, including Eleven, U-31, the Office, and the Soda Bar. “In 2009, we started off by picking 20 regional bands that we felt were important to the extended Southern California DIY punk music scene,” from an area, says Pagel, that extends from San Diego north to Los Angeles. “But this year we have bands coming from Canada, New York, the Midwest, Florida, and Seattle.” Besides Tiltwheel and Dan Padilla, local bands include the Bertos, the Last Years, and Sunnyside.
For a punk event, the Awesomefest has a decidedly hippie-ish vibe. Their web page says, “Awesomefest is a volunteer collaboration of nine core organizers, all longtime members of the Southern California DIY punk community, brought together for a love of three things: non-shit music, friendship, and fun.” Pagel says they have no corporate sponsors. “We’re not looking for handouts from anybody. There’s not even profit involved.” Every dollar they collect, he says, goes to band guarantees and expenses. The show promoters are not paid salaries or stipends. “We don’t keep anything. We even buy our own tickets to the festival.” Pagel, 26, expects attendance this year, including bands, to top 800. By his calculations, the event is growing each year. “But,” he says, “we are not trying to make this into something like the Warped Tour.”