Music Preview: Eco-friendly indie band promises high-wattage show at Sunstock festival

The roots of the Sunstock Solar Festival in Griffith Park on June 18 began years ago in a classroom at Pomona College. It was in an environmental science class that musicians Merritt Graves and Skylar Funk first met, beginning a partnership equally concerned with indie rock and saving the earth.

Their band, Trapdoor Social, recently invested in a touring trailer with a built-in solar-power station, which gathers and stores enough energy for the band to perform anywhere, anytime, without having to plug into the local energy grid. That eventually led to the creation of Sunstock, a festival on the south lawn of the Autry Museum headlined by local indie rock heroes Cults and Wavves.

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"The idea is to use the music, entertainment, the energy to inspire people about solar power, clean energy and sustainability," says Funk, who is active with the Sierra Club and the Beyond Coal campaign. "We booked the space to put on a solar-powered show and this whole thing grew from that. We started finding some really cool bands and we started bringing in lots of partners and made it bigger and bigger."

The festival will have a stage for the day's lineup of bands, plus brightly lit art made of LED lights. Among the partners supporting the show are the environmental groups Sierra Club and Climate Resolve. Most of the entertainment will unfold after sundown, powered by batteries charged by solar panels during the day.

The nonprofit event will give 100 percent of its profit to purchase solar panels for Kids Cancer Connection, a Los Angeles outpatient center.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the show ends at midnight.

"This whole thing isn't just to promote our band. It's to promote what we can do for the world," says Funk. "Most of the bands that are playing have way bigger followings than we do, and we're just happy to be opening for them."

Funk says he remains inspired by the socially conscious acts that brought issues of the environment, civil rights and the antiwar movement to a broad pop culture audience in the '60s and early '70s. "It doesn't seem like it's happening much anymore. It would be cool to be a part of a time that brings that back," says Funk. "We want to be the artists that speak about the issues we believe in."

Putting on a festival has been a new experience for Funk, 28, with the added burden of calculating wattages and battery power. Solar-powered trailers are increasingly common but still cutting-edge technology.

"The plan has definitely been to do it more than once and build something," he says of the festival. "I've watched other festivals grow from their first year and gain steam. The real potential for the impact we could have on the world in terms of bringing some excitement around solar power will come with time."

It's also meant a lot of extra hours at work or on the phone. "The festival organizer lifestyle is harder than I imagined it would be. I wonder if I could do it again," Funk says with laugh, "but I think I'm going to have to."¿

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What: Sunstock Solar Festival with Cults, Wavves, Allah-Las, Kaki King, the Big Pink, Trapdoor Social and more

When: June 18, 5 p.m. to midnight

Where: South Lawn, Autry Museum, Griffith Park

Tickets: $20. Parking is free.

More info: sunstocksolarfestival.com 

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Steve Appleford, steve.appleford@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveAppleford

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