Mayhem is a juried music competition, and despite the title, a friendly one among Oakland bands. “We feel that the scene is really vibrant, really on fire,” says Cortt Dunlap as we sit near Oakland City Hall. He owns Awaken Café, whose motto is “Bring people together. Launch movements.” Awaken co-produces the festival, with Oaktown Indie Mayhem, a booking and production company owned by Sarah Sexton.
“You know a lot of Oaklanders are very serious about buying local,” says Dunlap, "and we think people should be coming out to see local music.. and see how it great it is and see how it compares to something you may see at the Fox Theatre for $50 or a $100. Or see it here at a really small venue for under 10 bucks.”
“There’s like an energy here,” Sexton adds, “that is so powerful,” especially with so many young musicians priced out of San Francisco and moving to Oakland. “I hear a lot of people describe it as the next Brooklyn or the next Seattle or the next Austin.”
Check out The Seshen's music video for "Unravel" to get a taste of the kind of music that won this year's contest. Nominations are solicited from the public during the month of September and then reviewed by an all-star jury of Oakland musicians and music professionals. The Winner's Festival starts tonight and runs through Saturday. The Seshen won best in show.