You know the world is getting back to normal when concerts start happening again. On June 25 – 27, one of SoCal’s warmest communities is jazzed to turn up and turn on at the return of the OC Music Fest, at Lakeview Park, in Silverado. For those not in the know, the “OC” is a double entendre, which stands for “overnight camping” as well as “Orange County,” and the event is one of three multi-day, California-based, music festivals that serve as hubs for the jam band community — which revolves around Grateful Dead and Phish music.

According to Ted Tesoriero, event producer / president and CEO at DJE Sound and Lighting, Inc., advance ticket sales for this year’s OC Music Fest have been doing well. In the past, attendance has been in the 300-400 range, but Tesoriero says that the first post-Covid festival is on track to have a slightly higher attendance rate. This will be the ninth overall instance of the live festival. After its first five years at Irvine Lake, the festival went on a hiatus and then returned in 2018 and 2019 at its current scenic location, Lakeview Park.

Tesoriero also produces the Ventura County event Skull & Roses, which prominently features an eclectic variety of Grateful Dead tribute bands that pay homage to the Dead through a variety of musical styles (from Bluegrass to Heavy Metal). Skull & Roses will be returning next April, but Tesoriero had this to say about the re-emergence of the Jam Band Society’s newly scheduled events, “We are still here [laughs]! We plan on coming back with a full swing to the fence!” Additionally, the June Lake Jam Fest returns this September, in Mono County.

2019 OC Music Festival (Photo by Scott Feinblatt)

While there was no campout event held during quarantine, the OC Music Fest did thrive via a special online presentation for its eight-year anniversary in 2020. The “So Over COVID” streaming music festival took place over Memorial Day weekend and featured footage of bands playing at the 2019 festival as well as performances that were taped especially for the occasion. “We didn’t want to just broadcast past performances,” said Tesoriero on last year’s press release for the event. “We invited bands who had been social distancing to come and film their music sets on our virtual stage. The final result was stunning in terms of staging, lighting and sound.”

Reflecting back on the streaming festival, Tesoriero beamed about its success to Irvine Weekly. “Last year’s festival was amazing. The support of the Southern CA Jam Band crew was off the hook! We managed to produce an entire weekend of past and current performances thanks to our virtual studio we set up!”

Perhaps as a nod to Dead & Company, the current incarnation of the Grateful Dead (with original band members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart), which scheduled free online concerts throughout the pandemic, last year’s OC Music Fest’s stream was also free to audiences. Tesoriero explained the rationale for this choice: “We knew that by last May things were very serious and that people were having a hard time with the shutdown. We thought that [by] providing some of the first virtual music festivals, we could fill a void.” Filling that void, 3,000 people tuned in throughout the weekend.

While this year’s festival is back to being a live event, Tesoriero added, “Virtual has been and will start to play a larger part in society as a whole. We will definitely keep some of the elements like screens, cameras and online marketing to reach a larger audience that can’t always be everywhere.”

2018 OC Music Festival (Photo by Scott Feinblatt)

This year’s line-up includes many established acts from the jam band community as well as several acts which will be making their OC Music Fest debut. Returning to the festival’s Main and Hilltop stages will be fan faves such as Cubensis, GrooveSession, Robert Jon & The Wreck, and Hempstring Orchestra. New to the festival will be jam bands such as Universe Peoples, Sanford Street, Great North Special, and Painted in Light. In all, there are 15 acts scheduled to play the three-day festival.

Notably, the various generations of folks — predominantly Deadheads — who have attended in the past will testify that the weekend is not just about the music. People have routinely made this festival a family destination. For them, it represents not only a weekend of camping, buying stuff at the vendor area, and enjoying live music; it also represents a social tradition that was made popular by the Grateful Dead. For one weekend, these folks are not just music fans with like-minded preferences; they are a community. The performers hang out with the audience members; friendships are forged; people take care of the grounds; and it is a safe and welcoming environment for all ages.

The OC Music Fest runs from Friday, June 25 at 3:00 PM – Sunday, June 27 at 3:00 PM. Ticket Prices Range $100 – $175. Children ages 12 and under are FREE. For more info and to buy tickets, visit https://www.oc-musicfest.com/