Relix 44: Huichica Music Festival
Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on Relix.com throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.
The Straight From the Vine Music Festival: Huichica
In June 2013, Bob Weir made a surprise appearance at California’s Huichica Music Festival, joining his friend Jonathan Wilson for a few Grateful Dead tunes on a small stage situated on the grounds of the historic Gundlach Bundschu Winery. The sit-in marked Weir’s first public performance since he collapsed onstage during a Furthur show at The Capitol Theatre a couple months before—and the moment cemented Huichica’s position on more than a few music lovers’ festival bucket lists.
Since its 2010 inception, Huichica West has gone against much of what festival culture has come to represent these days. Gundlach Bundschu’s Jeff Bundschu helped found the festival, teaming up with Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson to curate a music, wine and food gathering that focuses on building unique, genuine experiences for every attendee and performer.
“Between the music, the vending and the fans, the idea was to create an environment where everyone was happy to be there together,” Bundschu explains. “And by definition, that meant [it needed to be] intimate, by festival standards. That’s what the model is. As a lifelong concertgoer and music lover, as much as I love the communal aspects of large-scale shows and festivals, I was burning out on the giant, thousands-of-people experiences, where the fans start to feel a little more like commodities.”
This August, Huichica’s promoters hosted their third-annual East Coast expansion festival in New York’s Hudson Valley, an area of New York that Bundschu says shares a lot of aspects with Sonoma Valley, including, of course, quality wineries. And the integration of wine and music has been a driving factor throughout the past decade of Huichica.
“Wine has never been about just drinking it and looking at it,” Bundschu says. “It’s about the people you’re sharing it with, and it’s about enjoying the environment. In wine, you tend to think about smell and taste. And in music, it’s hearing; at festivals, it’s sight. It’s never been lost on us that you can cross-pollinate those things.”
Huichica and Bundschu partnered with California promotors (((folkYEAH!))) in 2012, a seemingly perfect fit of two grassroots organizations creating boutique experiences for music fans. They spend a considerable amount securing the right vendors, locking in people who are excited about their products and involved in the company. The intimacy of Huichica—which caps out at about 1,500 attendees—is the highlight of the event though, and Bundschu prides himself on the sort of lasting memories that his festivals have created for music fans throughout the years. “I’ve been going to SXSW as a fan for many, many years, and what I love about that is: No matter how much you plan an itinerary, you could set your watch to the fact that your most awe-inspiring experience will be a band that you didn’t even know you were gonna see, in a place you didn’t expect,” Bundschu says, pointing out recent Huichica performers like Kyle Craft and Lia Ices as unexpectedly jaw-dropping performers. “It’s just about those experiences where you’re like, ‘Am I really seeing this? Am I really that close to this artist?’ We’re blessed that it happens any time we throw one of these things.”
This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.