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Behind the Scenes with DIO Co-Founder & Booker, Jeff Wilson - by Garrett Bethmann

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Behind the Scenes with DIO Co-Founder & Booker, Jeff Wilson - by Garrett Bethmann

Steven Stubblefield

Jeff performing at a DIO gathering on mountaintop in Big Sur. Photo: Sarah Shashaani.

Jeff performing at a DIO gathering on mountaintop in Big Sur. Photo: Sarah Shashaani.

The Do-It-Ourselves Fest musical philosophy can be summed up in three words:

book dope shit

It’s a simple philosophy really; one that we’ve remained faithful to since the festival’s inception. It’s also kind of a hard thing to do. Festivals nowadays, especially behemoths like Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and Coachella, have the tendency to skew lineups toward the most bankable acts, creating a situation where they can quickly become stale and unoriginal.

dio has always prided itself on doing things differently,

doing things with a more personal, communal touch. That’s why DIO’s lineups over the years have resembled a mixtape shared between friends: music discovered by word-of-mouth and from attending local shows with friends. Past lineups have always been eclectic and interesting. Over recent years, we have managed to field such crown jewels as Tommy Guerrero, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and William Tyler. However, there are also the bountiful, lesser known gems like Sky Country, Marty O’Reilly, Junglefire, and Bobcat Armenti, who have all found themselves blessing the Santa Cruz Mountains with soulful sounds.


Jeff’s sure hand being put to good use at the late night ro sham bo tourney. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.com

Jeff’s sure hand being put to good use at the late night ro sham bo tourney. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.com

An important member of the DIO curation station is that of festival co-founder and musician, Jeff Wilson.

Since day one, he has not only helped create the lineups and book acts, but has done everything from building stages to setting up campsites for the festival.

Wilson grew up in Encinitas, California and knew he loved music from an early age. He was brought up on ska, punk, and rock music, but it wasn’t until he found the music of Jimi Hendrix that he was baptized in the church of rock-and-roll. Drummer Mitch Mitchell had a huge influence on Wilson and by eighth grade he was playing drums as well, essentially taking his first steps into the music world.


Jeff ripping on the drums and letting loose. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.com

Jeff ripping on the drums and letting loose. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.com

Wilson now plays drums in the band Futurebirds.

He was actually a fan of the band for many years before he booked the group to play a powerful late-night set under the stars at DIO 2018. One thing lead to another and he eventually found himself playing in the band he had been a fan of less than a year earlier – pretty much living the dream of just about anyone who has ever loved a band.

He certainly couldn’t have predicted this future for him when he got involved with the festival back in 2013 which was once supposed to be just a going away party for co-founder Jon-O: “Seven or eight years ago, this guy Jon-O, who used to work at Camp Krem, found out that he was moving to Florida. We were in the car— me, him, and our buddy, Tony Mills, who helps do the festival— and Jon-O said he wanted to throw a party before he left. Originally, it was going to be a one day thing and maybe have a band or two. It ended up being three days with 20 bands and selling tickets and all that kind of stuff,” said Wilson.

As both a musician and fan, Wilson can’t get enough of music. Helping curate these lineups gives him the opportunity to turn musical fantasies into reality – a position not too many people get to experience. He also strives to handle his responsibility with care by coordinating with the likes of experienced bookers Sarah Shashaani and Shayla Thernes and searching for the overlooked bands instead of the overexposed ones.

Jeff performing with North Pacific String Band at DIO Fest 2013 laying down some string band jams. Photo: Sean Basalyga.

Jeff performing with North Pacific String Band at DIO Fest 2013 laying down some string band jams. Photo: Sean Basalyga.

“I’M OBSESSED WITH MUSIC; IT’S MY LIFE AND HEART. I GET STOKED ON CURATING A LINEUP AND I TRY AND BOOK GOOD BANDS THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT HAVE HEARD OF YET, NOT JUST WHAT’S POPULAR IN THE BAY AREA AT THE MOMENT. I WANT TO REACH A LITTLE FURTHER AND PUT SOME DOPE SHIT OUT. I JUST WANT TO BOOK DOPE SHIT,” SAID WILSON.

Looking at 2019’s mix of bands, Wilson helped put together another stellar line-up. Asked to point out some of the bands he’s excited about this year, he chooses the Vetiver/Fruitbats duo, the Heligoats, Mattson 2, and Flaural (which he describes as “Pink Floyd meets some Wilco”).

He’s also a big fan of Bay Area’s Alcatraz Islanders, who add a sweet little touch to the musical collage.

“This guy Mikiya plays pedal steel and this amazing 20’s and 30’s Hawaiian music. It’s always fun for me to have a couple of bands from out-of-left-field. It’s good to have different cultural things and different styles of music,” said Wilson

Jeff giving the audience a big THANK YOU and telling everyone a little bit about our host and beneficiary Camp Krem, a summer camp facility for those with developmental disabilities. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.

Jeff giving the audience a big THANK YOU and telling everyone a little bit about our host and beneficiary Camp Krem, a summer camp facility for those with developmental disabilities. Photo: fromthefringesphotography.

camp krem is a special place, from the amazing work done there, to its beautiful location.

For these reasons and so many more, it’s just a wonderful venue in which to experience music. We’ve all had musical moments we will never forget up on that mountain top and Jeff Wilson is one of the important members we have to thank for curating those moments. It seems he’s given himself a couple of pats on the back over the years, and for good reason.

“The first one was crazy because it happened and we didn’t have any problems, which was amazing (laughs). It’s all about friends and people introducing you to people. We had Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy a couple years ago and he was just legend, a super nice dude. During one point on Saturday I shared a bowl of Ramen with him with one fork (laughs). This band Futurebirds headlined Friday last year and now I play with them. That was pretty life-changing in a way, it was awesome,” said Wilson.

do-it-ourselves is awesome. thanks jeff. long live rock-and-roll.

Tickets available for the next DIO Fest here.

Jeff and DIO Fest co-founder Stevee Stubblefield trying to wake up and get it together on Sunday morning, making sure not to miss the magic in the amphitheater on Sunday. Photo: Kelly Koval from the Gitch’r Portrit Project.

Jeff and DIO Fest co-founder Stevee Stubblefield trying to wake up and get it together on Sunday morning, making sure not to miss the magic in the amphitheater on Sunday. Photo: Kelly Koval from the Gitch’r Portrit Project.