Los Angeles has Coachella. San Francisco has Outside Lands. And a handful of other American cities with high concentrations of hip, music-loving young folks with disposable income have their respective festivals.
But, it’s not every city that can boast a free party open to all ages, that spans blocks and features more than 60 bands on eight stages. Catacomb Party is the democratic counterpart to the other California festivals to the north and south. It’s a festival that’s about more than good music and getting drunk; it’s about boosting the image of downtown Fresno and creating jobs. But the music and beer are a fun part of it, nonetheless.
And who better to organize such a party than a musician? Enter Mathr de León of the semi-retired local band Fierce Creatures, whose 2012 album lent its name to the festival. Along with two musically-minded business partners, John Esquivel and Nathaniel Stiers, and more local supporters, ranging from city officials to fellow creatives, than could fit in Peeve’s Public House, de León is guiding Catacomb Party into its third year of rocking the Fulton Mall.
What began as a response to the excitement of playing Austin’s SXSW festival “madhouse” with Fierce Creatures, has turned into a true passion project for de León. But he says bringing such an event to life wouldn’t be possible year after year without the help of his business partners—Esquivel was instrumental in getting headliner Dan Deacon on the ticket for this year’s event—and a supportive community. Partners for the event include Tioga-Sequoia, Sound n Vision, Rogue Festival and the Downtown Fresno Partnership.
I sat down with him on a windy day on the Fulton Mall to talk about Catacomb Party, which, in a week’s time, will consume the exact spot in which we were sitting. De León gave me the scoop on how it all got started, why he may need to finally go to Coachella and what he plans to do when this year’s festival is over.
Catacomb Party goes down Saturday, April 4, from noon to midnight. To get more information on the festival, like how to get into The Green Room “party within a party” held on the roof of the Pacific Southwest building, go to the event’s website here.