On Sept. 7, Sound Summit, one of the biggest and most locally beneficial live music events in town – set in one of the Bay Area’s most spectacular and intimate venues – returns to the historic Mountain Theater, a 4,000-seat natural stone amphitheater atop Mount Tamalpais with stunning views of San Francisco Bay and beyond.

Founder Michael Nash produces the event as an annual celebration of and fundraiser for Mount Tamalpais State Park by his nonprofit organization, Roots & Branches Conservancy. To date, Sound Summit has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in support to Mount Tam.

Co-headlining the intimate gathering are two indie-rock icons – virtuosic guitarist and deft lyricist Courtney Barnett and rock/folk/psychedelic powerhouse Kurt Vile. The festival will also feature beloved retro-soul outfit The California Honeydrops, breakout 17-year-old guitar phenomenon and her band Grace Bowers & The Hodge Podge; and genre-transcendent Bay Area artist/conjurer Skyway Man.

Sound Summit welcomes the return and reunion of veteran emcees Murph & Mac (aka Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey, partners on KNBR from 2006-2023), along with KPFA’s “Dead to the World” radio host Tim Lynch. Andy Cabic of Vetiver fame will keep the groove going all day, spinning records between sets.

Fueled by past musical acts such as Wilco, The War On Drugs, Lord Huron, Sierra Ferrell, Bob Weir & Phil Lesh, Herbie Hancock, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Grace Potter, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Father John Misty, Jim James, Los Lobos, Dr. John & The Night Trippers, and many more, Sound Summit has donated over $250,000 to Mount Tam from festival proceeds to date. It has just recently allocated funds to completely restore the historic and extremely popular Steep Ravine Environmental Cabins, perched in a gorgeous spot along the Marin County Coast. Additional funds will be dedicated to Pantoll and Bootjack campsites and trails rehabilitation and long overdue infrastructural repairs and improvements to the Mountain Theater.

“The piece that we love about Sound Summit,” says festival producer and Roots & Branches Conservancy board president Michael Nash, “is not only staging a resonant musical gathering in this stellar spot high above the Bay, but that we’ve been able to in turn fund truly meaningful projects on the mountain that enhance public access and experience, let alone others around fire prevention, water conservation, emergency equipment and services, and more. It’s a full circle, the proverbial gift that keeps on giving.”

Tickets for Sound Summit go on sale Friday, June 7, at 10am. (PDT) and are $120 for adults and $60 for youth 12 and under; children 2 and under are admitted free. Reserved Mountain Parking is $65, and the Bus Shuttle Round Trip from Mill Valley is $30. To purchase tickets and for more information on the event, parking, and shuttles, visit SoundSummit.net. Gates open at 10:00 a.m.; music from 11am to 7pm.

Clockwise from top left, Courtney Barrett, The California HoneyDrops, Kurt Vile, Skyman & Grace Bowers.

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett is a powerhouse live act who has played slots at festivals such as Coachella, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Governors Ball, Primavera, and Lollapalooza. In the hands of Barnett, fragments of everyday life become rich and riveting. A deft lyricist and virtuosic guitarist, she is an emblem of millennial wit and one of Australia’s most successful musical exports. Based for much of her adult life in Melbourne, Barnett first found critical acclaim with 2013’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas and broke into the mainstream in 2015 with her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Garnering a coveted Best New Artist Grammy nomination and numerous other accolades, the album is a generational classic. Barnett followed her debut with 2017’s Lotta Sea Lice, an acclaimed collaborative record with Kurt Vile, and eschewed the vignettes of her early records on 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, her humid, political sophomore record, which featured the Margaret Atwood-invoking single “Nameless, Faceless.” A new and gorgeous chapter from Courtney Barnett is here with the release of her 2023 instrumental album End of the Day (music from the film Anonymous Club). Comprised of 17 improvisations originally recorded in 2021 as part of the score to the film Anonymous Club, Barnett returned to these tracks a year later, remixing, re-ordering, and reframing them into a seamless meditative collage.

Kurt Vile & The Violators

Kurt Vile is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist known for his distinctive indie rock, folk, and psychedelic music blend. His career began in the early 2000s when he started writing and recording songs in his bedroom. Vile has collaborated with various artists, including Courtney Barnett, J Mascis, John Prine, Kim Gordon, Warpaint, Willie Nelson, and more. His collaborative album with Barnett, Lotta Sea Lice(2017), received widespread acclaim and showcased the chemistry between the two musicians. Kurt Vile has achieved significant commercial success, with over one million albums sold globally and over 500 million streams on Spotify. His single “Pretty Pimpin” has been certified Gold by the RIAA. Vile has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Late Show with David Letterman. He has also performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series and appeared on Austin City Limits TV for a John Prine tribute, Portlandia, and HBO’s Animals, where he played an animated squirrel. He was even an answer on Jeopardy. Additionally, Vile’s influence and talent have been recognized by Rolling Stone magazine, which named him one of the 250 Best Guitarists Of All Time.

The California Honeydrops

The California Honeydrops…evoke the greasy rumble of Booker T and channel the spiritual ecstasy of Sly and the Family Stone.” – Rolling Stone. Formed in the subway systems of Oakland, retro-soul outfit The California Honeydrops are an electrifying group that defies convention at every turn. They’ve become a mainstay at festivals including Byron Bay Bluesfest (Australia), Outside Lands, Monterey Jazz, Lightning In A Bottle, and touring with B.B. King, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, and Allen Toussaint. Led by the enigmatic and energetic frontman, Lech Wierzynski, and drummer Benjamin Malament, each member of the band is a virtuoso in their own rite — Yanos “Johnny Bones” Lustig on saxophone, Lorenzo Loera on keyboards/guitar, Beaumont Beaullieu on bass, and regularly accompanied by Scott Messersmith on percussion, Oliver Tuttle on trombone, Leon Cotter on saxophone/clarinet, and Miles Lyons on trombone/sousaphone — navigating through a vast repertoire of original songs and timeless classics every night. But what truly sets them apart is their unwavering commitment to the art of improvisation – a skill so finely honed that they have completely abandoned the use of set lists, and no two shows are ever the same. Off stage, their music has been streamed more than 200 million times and placed in a variety of TV and films, including “Dead To Me,” “Alaska Daily,” “Black-ish,” and more. They are touring North America to support their new deluxe album, Soft Spot.

Grace Bowers & The Hodge Podge

Grace Bowers was baptized by rock ‘n’ roll music. She cut her teeth on sweat soaked stages inside dive bars and found fellowship in the divine playing of B.B. King. She once studied six-string scripture – written by Slash and Leslie West – for hours a day, mastering her favorite riffs on a ‘61 cherry-finished Gibson SG. As an up-and-comer in Nashville, Dolly Parton recruited her for a network television special and Tyler Childers requested that she join him on stage. She’s played with a who’s-who of three-chord storytellers and guitar-pickin’ torchbearers – Lainey Wilson, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Susan Tedeschi, to name a few. And she’s not yet old enough to graduate high school. Phenom? Wunderkind? … Prodigy? No matter what label may be pinned to Bowers, she’s just a teenager who’s putting her faith in rock ‘n’ roll – one song at a time.

“[It’s] a cool thing,” Bowers said. “It blows people’s minds that I’m a 17-year-old girl, playing guitar. And as much as I hate being labeled as that, it’s true.” But Bowers isn’t just a sought-after 17-year-old guitarist storming jam sessions with her Gibson and a gold-blonde mop of shoulder-length curls, of course. She’s a bandleader and songwriter preparing to leave her mark on some of the biggest stages in music. Her debut album, Wine On Venus – produced by ace guitarist and songwriter John Osborne (of hitmaking country group Brothers Osborne) – hits turntables and streaming services later this year. Listeners get a first taste of the album on lead single and standout number “Tell Me Why U Do That,” where Bowers and her band – affectionately called The Hodge Podge – deliver a throwback, feel-good tune that comes jam-packed with funk grooves, soul-inspired melodies and a stop-you-in-your-tracks guitar solo. It’s the type of song that dares listeners not to stand up and sing along.

A native of Northern California, Bowers and her family relocated to Nashville two-and-a-half years ago, weeks before her freshman year of high school (Bowers now studies online). Not yet old enough to drive, she continued to grow her audience on social media, becoming a Gibson-endorsed artist by age 14. She found her way to performing live, taking her skills to dive bars and pay-at-the-door rock clubs before graduating to guest spots at Newport Folk Festival, Nashville’s Big Bash New Year’s Eve concert and her own fundraising gig for victims of the city’s Covenant School shooting in 2023, among others.

This year, Bowers and the band take Wine On Venus on the road for a run of dream-making festival shows, including slots at BottleRock Napa Valley, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, Bourbon & Beyond and Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, among others.

Skyway Man

Like a West Coast Dr. John—but more preoccupied with flying saucers than voodoo dolls—Skyway Man is in the business of opening new aural worlds, cracking open reality just enough to get the message through. Flight of the Long Distance Healer sparkles and blinks, whispers and moans—hugely enjoyable music rendered in imaginative and gleaming style. There are hints of the polyrhythmic cinematic sensibility from Wallace’s contributions to the Joe Pera television series, rhythms of the Stax-inspired Spacebomb house band, and ripples of the current East Bay scene outside San Francisco. In a real showcase for the extended Skyway Man family, Wallace has coaxed personal and masterful performances from the likes of Erin Rae, Vetiver’s Andy Cabic, Molly Sarlé, pedal steel wizard Spencer Cullum, Kelly McFarling, and more. Cooking up genres in such a way as to keep their nutrients intact, he packs prog, blues, glam rock, swamp boogie, and future folk into a beautiful Martian bouillon.

About Roots & Branches Conservancy

Roots & Branches Conservancy is a San Francisco Bay Area-based non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of natural resources, both physical and cultural. The broad arc of our mission ranges from regional environmental and educational work to the preservation and evolution of artistic and cultural traditions – musical, visual, narrative, and beyond. Wherever possible, we aim to create intersections between the environment, education, and the arts to their mutual benefit. Towards those ends, our interests lie in producing resonant community experiences in our events, providing educational components in our programming, and making meaningful contributions to worthy beneficiaries. Roots & Branches Conservancy was born in the context of drastic cuts in the California State Parks budget and our belief in the power of art and community to gather force for a good cause.


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