Last-minute preparations are as complete as they're going to be for the ninth annual "Summer Meltdown Concert for Social Inclusion and Autism Awareness," which takes over the The Plaza Theater and its patio and backyard on Lyons Avenue in Newhall Saturday from 1 p.m. to midnight.
Staged by the students with and without disabilities in the nonprofit Yes I Can program at Canyon High School, this year's rockstravaganza features Hawaii-based reggae stars Iration (pictured) headlining a multi-genre all-star roster of almost 30 bands and solo acts on two stages.
It's the first Summer Meltdown to have a theme: a Hawai'ian Luau, paying homage to the world-famous headliner based in the Pacific paradise. A Caribbean tropical rainforest vibe will also make the Meltdown bands playing roots rock reggae feel right at home.
Iration played its first Meltdown set in May 2010, and everyone who saw the band has been bugging the Yes I Can students to bring the group back for an encore.
The marathon festival's lineup also features Mod Sun, VIBE, Vocab Kompany, Seedless, Zen Robbi, Radical Something, Brian Bell, The Feaver, Pacific Dub, Above Ground, Kounterfeit Change, Papafish, Reeform, Ease Up, Bridge 22, Full Effect, Young Murdoc, Attributes, Condemn Us as Saviors and more, plus a few surprise guests.
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Spin-doctors DJ Sp3XXX, DJ Society, DJ Trokk, DJ Spinz and DJ Enix are on the bill as well (see schedule later in the story).
The headliners and better-known bands will perform on the main stage, while a smaller second stage will present electronic music and up-and-coming artists.
A food court will dish a variety of eats and treats, a merchandise court will be set up for band merchandise and autograph sessions, and booths set up by sponsors and other vendors.
"The kids are getting very excited because everything is really starting to come into place now," said Bret Lieberman, Hart district special-ed teacher and Yes I Can advisor at Canyon earlier this week. "Everyone has been doing their little parts, and now it's all coming together into a big, big event.
"Bands are starting to arrive, and sending in (merchandise) for us to raffle off," he said. "Even bands that weren't able to perform are sending in (promo) items for us to throw out to the audience. Some students got a business to donate an xBox 360, headphones, lots of cool stuff for our raffles from the stage. All the plants (to dress the stage in a tropical motif) are being delivered (Friday) morning. One came in with a big banner he was able to get printed at a discount through Warner Bros. The kids have found a security company who'll donate services. We're just putting it all together, and it's beautiful."
In just the last week, the Yes I Can crew lined up professsional sound and lights for the larger of the two rooms. "It wasn't a donation, but the students managed to arrange a really good discount," Lieberman said. "Our back was against the wall, and we had to do it. We're definitely thinking of having a fundraising effort after the Meltdown this year to cover all the extra expenses we haven't had in past years. For instance, a travel company has reached out to us and wants to develop some packages people can bid on to help us raise funds."
Last-minute sponsors and donors of merchandise, food and beverages are still welcome. "They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 661-252-6110, ext. 479," Lieberman said.
There are approximately 100 Canyon High School students enrolled in the 501c(3) nonprofit Yes I Can program for students with disabilities, including autism, and primarily Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and general-ed peer mentors.
The students' slogan for their program is "Unity Through Music and Education," and a love of music is shared by all, specially abled or not. All Yes I Can students play some role in producing Summer Meltdown, the culminating event for their program. Starting in the fall semester each year, the students raise funds, line up sponsors and food vendors, book talent, hire sound and lighting crews and more as part of their course studies, all leading up to the big show.
Along the way, the students build their social skills and get practical real-life experience. The students' outreach and the festival itself help raise community awareness of autism. Music is a vehicle for the entire enterprise.
"That's the lesson, is keep pushing through," Lieberman said. "I think to the whole model of Yes I Can is to never give up, and that anything's possible, and I think with the year that we had and the things that were put in out way to slow us down, it just shows us that we can all rise together. It's the power of music, the power of education, and the love of the kids coming together to own something, and be part of something."
Tickets are $20 and available now at www.summermeltdown2012.com . Tickets will also be available at the door on Saturday.
Here's the Summer Meltdown 2012 performance schedule, as of Thursday, May 17 (subject to change):
- 1:15-1:45: Ease Up
- 2:00-2:30: Brian Bell
- 2:45-3:15: Papafish
- 3:30-4:00: The Feaver
- 4:15-4:45: Day Above Ground
- 5:00-5:30: Reeform
- 5:45-6:15: Zen Robbi
- 6:30-7:00: Pacific Dub
- 7:15-7:45: Seedless
- 8:00-8:30: VIBE
- 8:45-9:15: Mod Sun
- 9:30-10:00 Vokab Kompany
- 10:15-11:15: Iration
HLP/Yes I Can Stage:
- 1:30-2:00: Condemn Us as Saviors
- 2:15-2:45: Closer to Close
- 3:00-3:30: Attributes
- 3:34-4:15: Uprooted
- 4:40-5:00: EVMB
- 5:15-5:45: Young Mix-a-Lot
- 6:00-6:30: DJ Erik
- 6:45-7:15: DJ Spinz
- 7:30-8:00: DJ Trokk
- 8:15-8:45: DJ Society
- 9:00-9:30: DJ Sp3XXX
Find The Plaza Theater at 23710 Lyons Avenue, Newhall, Calif. 91321.
For more information, see the Summer Meltdown 2012 preview video  on YouTube (produced by Andy Ryan, 17 and a Yes I Can mentor for almost three years) and visit www.summermeltdown2012.com , www.sponsorthemeltdown.com  and www.facebook.com/yicmeltdown .