Visalia makes ‘Taste’ this weekend

Tastemakers Festival brings together most eclectic music and arts festivals

By Stephanie Barraza
Special to The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – Aaron Gomes isn’t afraid of big ideas, and when it comes to funding his nonprofit organization, he knows a reliable way to help finance it: a music festival.

“Tastemakers Festival allows us to continue each year,” said Gomes, the founder of the festival and executive director of Sound N Vision (SNV) Foundation.

For the last four years, Gomes and a close group of community-minded volunteers have helped put together one of Visalia’s most eclectic music and arts festivals. Now in its fifth year and taking place this Saturday, Oct. 6, the festival has continually helped the foundation raise money to provide free summer music and art classes to Central Valley youth, which include classes in guitar, drums, ukulele, dance, and art.

“This money is also used to sustain these classes and allows us to keep them free,” he said. “We think all of our area’s youth should have access to the arts.”

Although Visalia’s Rawhide Ballpark was home to the festival for the last four years, it will have a new change in venue this year. The Old Lumberyard, which is managed by the Arts Consortium, will provide the space that is needed for two stages, four food trucks, and dozens of art vendors.

It also seems fitting that the festival is held within the Visalia’s downtown arts district, which is made up of art galleries and studios, including Arts Visalia, Garden Street Studio, Dance Arts, and the Arts Consortium, all within walking distance of the venue.

Located at 300 E. Oak Ave. and adorned with dozens of graffiti murals, the Old Lumberyard is an open space that has been turned into venue for several large events, including Pride Visalia, which packed over 2,000 people last year, which is hosted by The Source LGBT+ Center.

“We really like the vibe at The Old Lumberyard and are excited to see our music lineup, food trucks, breweries and visual artists do their thing there,” said Gomes.

Run entirely by volunteers, Gomes says the festival wouldn’t exist without their expertise of local industry professionals.

“Chafic Dada has always taken good care of lining up the breweries and food trucks for this event, while Charlie Saponara and Dana Galante handle the layout operations. Juan Verduzco and Paul Lerma head up the marketing, Marc Dwelle coordinates finances, and Tom and Tina Price help with volunteer coordination and loose ends,” he said.

With the venue secured downtown and the volunteers working their magic, the music lineup for this year’s festival includes a patchwork of bands with a variety of different sounds and genres, and even some with obscure and unconventional styles.

“We tried to vary up the lineup by mixing many music genres,” said Gomes. “This lineup features some of the region’s best performers, and ends with a headlining set by Los Angeles’ party band, Tropa Magica.”

Hailing from East Los Angeles, Tropa Magica is made up of brothers David and Rene Pacheco. Their sound, described as “Tropi-Punk,” is born out of the clash of some of their favorite musical influences, which include cumbia and punk bands. Previously known as Thee Commons, some local music-goers might remember their set when they opened at Visalia’s Cellar Door and at Fresno’s Grizzly Fest in last year.

Apart from its very off-the-wall headliner that is sure to make a dance party, the lineup also consists of a diverse set of local bands, including several coming down from Fresno.

Influenced by Tupac Shakur and Nas, Fresno-based rapper Zee Will has been steadily growing a following in the Central Valley since 2012 for his highly catchy songs and vibrant, jazzy sound. He released his self-titled album Zee Will in 2015 and released a follow-up EP, ill Mantra, in 2016.

“As an artist, I bring a unique next-generation hip-hop flow by focusing on all types of music to broaden my ability to work with any sound,” he said.

The rest of the lineup includes three more bands from Fresno, including modern-yet-funky rock band Sharks of Dance, six-piece reggae-rock band White Glove Service, and surf rockers Eighteen Hundreds. Adding to the mix will also be Orosi-based rock back Macondo.

One band that has been a constant in every lineup for the past four years of the festival has been the SNV Youth Band, which is made up entirely out of young students who have been taught through the classes the SNV Foundation helps provide.

“The SNV Youth band is literally a band that features some of the students that we service in our music classes,” said Gomes. “What’s cool is that some of our students are now helping teach the classes. They’ll be playing three songs at the festival, along with performances by our dance groups.”

In addition, Gomes brought in the help of local art collective, #ILoveArtBro, to curate the second stage with many more local artists, which include Indosurf, Hour 13, Savannah Walters, Edward Hernandez, Little Thousand, and J.D. Garza.

With a total of 13 bands covering a range of different genres, food that caters to a variety of tastes, and dozens of artists displaying their work, Tastemakers Festival will provide one of South Valley’s most diverse attractions this year.

Tastemakers Festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Old Lumberyard located on 300 E. Oak Ave. in Visalia. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 day of; children 10 and under free. For more information, please visit

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