If You Book It, They Will Come: CAYA Fest Defies Common Wisdom for the Fourth Year in a Row
Nature abhors a vacuum, and being part of nature, music scenes abhor an empty performance space. Give bands access to one and you may soon find yourself shocked at just how many bands there are. For example: CAYA Fest. The annual Grants Pass music festival went from nothing to a two-day extravaganza with thirty acts in only a few year, and it was due almost entirely to a handful of bands being given access to Grants Pass’ Eaden Ballroom as a performance space. CAYA Fest returns for its fourth year on May 19 and 20, with more than thirty local and touring bands (see the full lineup on the Facebook event). Ringleader Taylor Bates, of local groups like Your Hands Write History, Steaksauce Mustache, and Critic, took the time to give The Messenger some backstory. He had a lot to say and it wouldn’t all fit in the print edition, so be sure to check out the extended piece on the website.
Rogue Valley Messenger: How did CAYA Fest get started?
Taylor Bates: CAYA Fest first begin in 2013 under the original name: Band Of Brothers. I had talked with a handful of the local groups who were around at the time and we all had this idea of hosting an all local/regional band event, with as many bands as we could get on it, and opening it up as a free show, as a means of giving back to all the people who supported our bands. I really dislike an unhealthy ego-fueled sense of competition and petty division between bands, so I decided that all the bands involved with the event would show up before the whole event, and we would randomly draw all of the bands names in order to fairly determine the order of which all the bands performed.
The event ended up being such a massive hit among all of the community that I really wanted to continue setting up the event as an annual event with a focus on local musicians. By the graciousness of the wonderful venue and people who make up The Eaden Ballroom in Grants Pass, we’ve been able to continue setting up this event as our biggest event, and every year it just keeps growing! It’s so excited to see a show with eight bands, now blossom into 30 performing acts.
RVM: People frequently say that Southern Oregon’s music scene is a folk market exclusively. Your lineup says otherwise. Speak to that.
TB: Our experience has actually been quite the opposite. We love music in all shapes and forms, from Deathcore to solo harpists. … We’ve had a small handful of Folk musicians, both touring and local, come and be a part of CAYA and the Eaden Ballroom, but we mostly receive a lot of requests from Indie-Rock groups and Metal/Hardcore groups. We receive anywhere between 10-100 show requests every month.
RVM: The music scene in Grants Pass seems to be taking off lately. Why do you think that is?
TB: Well from the five years I’ve been assisting the local community, it’s purely because that’s where the available locations are. I know everyone would love to bring more all-ages shows into the Medford territory, but all of the locations that used to be available for that market have since dried up. Currently Grants Pass has several really great budding venues/businesses. Such as The Eaden Ballroom, The Haul, The Sound Lounge, and G Street Bar and Grill.
RVM: This is your fourth year. Anything new or different this year from previous CAYA Fests?
TB: Yes! Last year was our first year extending the event into a second day, doubling the amount of performing artists we could host. This year we are adding an additional 10 performance slots, specifically for solo and acoustic artists. We purposefully mix the genres throughout the entire evening. So this year, with 30 total performances, we divided the flow of the event into five “waves.” Each wave starts with a solo artist performing, followed by a performance from a “softer” or more “mellow” rock group, then ends with a more “aggressive” or “heavy” group. I’m thrilled that we just so happen to have 10 solo, 10 indie/rock, and 10 metal/hardcore groups register for this year’s CAYA Fest. I love the diversity and the dynamic that all of the groups provide.
RVM: What in your opinion makes CAYA Fest a unique festival?
TB: An immense amount of the credit all goes to the Eaden Ballroom. Seriously. There’s no place in the world like it. Just talk with any of the touring bands we’ve hosted there, they all say they’ve never experienced a place like it. They have incredible sound quality, talented and kind volunteer staff, they offer home cooked meals for all the bands, and they continuously upgrade and improve the venue as much as they can. All of our shows that we host there are free/donation funded. Full honesty, we never break even with the basic costs financially. BUT that’s what makes Eaden so incredible. They believe in the heart of what we’re doing. No one involved with CAYA or Eaden are in this to generate financial growth. We all pour ourselves into making a difference and helping as many people as we can. We saw that there was a gaping need for an all ages safe space with fun events, and we’re doing our absolute best to fill that need.
I’d say the other main factor is that CAYA Fest is primarily focused on uniting the local scene. To create friends out of fans, and to create unity in a market that is highly competitive and divided. There’s a lot of smaller music festivals springing up across the US, but there are very few that are more concerned with helping the community grow healthy, than with making a buck or boosting notoriety. But that’s just my personal views on it.
RVM: What are you most excited for at this year’s festival?
TB: CAYA Fest really is my favorite concert of the year. Leading up to it is extremely stressful because my mind is overly saturated with trying to solve puzzles and organize my ideas into practical and easy to understand communication, but as soon as the event gets rolling, it’s just amazing to see so many wonderful people all come together and have an amazing time enjoying music and building memories.
RVM: Anything you wanted to include but weren’t able to?
TB: Next year we’d love to screen print posters & shirts to offer as memorabilia for CAYA Fest, and we’re also looking into ways we could include the rest of the local community, outside of just the music scene. We’d love to bring in local businesses and somehow give them a platform to pour out to the community with us. We’re already discussing ideas on how to do that. We want to protect the heart of what the event is all about, but also open up to new possibilities and connections. At this point, this is all a labor of love for all of us involved. This is the first year we are setting an entry fee ($10, includes entry for both days) purely as means of generating funds to cover as many of our donation/free shows as we can for the rest of the year. The amount of time, effort, and money we’ve all poured into growing this passion definitely affects our ability to do more. So this will be a great means of relieving the burden off of our shoulders financially, so we can just focus on loving and supporting all of the artists and fans that come out to our shows.
RVM: What’s in the future for CAYA Fest? What would you like to see in its future?
TB: The future for CAYA and CAYA Fest is unknown as it is with everything else in life, but we have ideas and hopes to continue doing what we’re doing and to try and make a lasting healthy impact. As long as lives permit it, we’ll just keep using what we have to do what we feel we’re suppose to do. 🙂
CAYA Fest, featuring more than thirty bands
3 pm, Fri., May 19, Sat., May 20
The Eaden Ballroom, 244 SW K St., Grants Pass