Reggae stars Iration (pictured) headline a multi-genre roster of more than 25 bands slated to rock two stages at the ninth annual “Summer Meltdown Concert for Social Inclusion and Autism Awareness” concert, this year at The Plaza theater on Lyons Avenue in Newhall on Saturday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to midnight.
The festival, produced by the students with and without disabilities including autism in the nonprofit Yes I Can program at Canyon High School, will also feature Mod Sun, VIBE, Vocab Kompany, Seedless, Zen Robbi, Radical Something, Brian Bell, Pacific Dub, Above Ground, Kounterfeit Change, Papafish, Pacific Dub, Reeform, Ease Up, Bridge 22, Full Effect, Young Murdoc, Attributes, Condemn Us as Saviors, and more, plus special guests to be announced as soon as contract ink is dry.
It's the first Summer Meltdown to have a theme: a Hawai'ian Luau, paying homage to the world-famous headliner that formed the Pacific paradise, and is now based in Santa Barbara. 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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Also on the bill are spin-doctors DJ SP3XXX, DJ Society, DJ Trokk, DJ Spinz and DJ Enix. There will be a food court with a variety of eats and treats, and booths set up by sponsors and other vendors.
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 (see schedule later in the story).
Other pieces of the production — including main stage sound and lighting, tents and chairs for artist dressing rooms, sponsors and VIPs, safety barricades, and set-dressing trees and foliage — are not yet in place.
Summer Meltdown is the culminating event for Yes I Can students who each year raise funds, line up sponsors and food vendors, book talent, hire sound and lighting crews and more as part of their course studies, starting in the fall semester.
Along the way, the students build their social skills and get practical real-life experience. The students' outreach and the festival itself help raise awareness of autism; many of the special-ed kids in the program have Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
For its first eight years, the festival was produced by Yes I Can students at Golden Valley High School, under the guidance of advisor and district special ed instructor Bret Lieberman (also a local concert promoter outside of school), and staged in Golden Valley's outdoor amphitheater, which seats around 2,000 spectators.
Lieberman and the program transferred to Canyon High for the fall 2011 semester and originally hoped to continue staging the festival at Golden Valley. However, Hart District officials subsequently decided it was "not a school- or District-sponsored event" and could no longer be held at a district facility (read about the district's decision  and the reaction  of students, parents and organizers).
So, this year, for the first time, the students' preparation also included lining up a new venue.
"They were originally looking at Central Park," Lieberman said, but the timing didn't work out. "The Plaza happened to be available. We worked out a price and we're renting it, and it is ours to transform into a Summer Meltdown festival."
Along with its overarching theme of social inclusion and autism awareness, Summer Meltdown has a sub-theme, another first.
"Since Iration is coming from Hawaii, the band's homeland, the students have decided that we should make them feel at home, so we're trying to transform the theater into a lush rainforest, luau-style scene," Lieberman said. "So, we're looking for landscaping companies who could donate some greenery. That would be amazing."
Along with palm trees and coconuts, the students are busy trying to find sponsors to donate sound and lights for the bigger of the two rooms at The Plaza.
"For the smaller room, Higher Level Shows (Lieberman's company) is going to cover all of the sound and lighting, but to be able to pull off the second room, we need a really large company that can handle professional bands to handle the rest in the main room," Lieberman said.
"Last year we had a company donate a laser light show, and that company is booked on this date, so we're looking for another company that could possibly donate a show for the student," he said. "That was something that both students with autism and the general education peers just loved together. It was something unique to our event last year."
"Without the Golden Valley amphitheater as our venue, we lose a lot of rooms and facilities, so we would love to have a company donate tenting, chairs and tables so we could have rooms for the artists, the sponsors, VIPs and the Yes I Can students," Lieberman said.
"We also need safety barricades. We're looking for a company that possibly has misters and fans — I imagine it's going to be hot," he said. "We're looking for t-shirts and stuff from clothing companies we can use as throw-outs from the stage to the audience. And we're still looking for monetary donations to help pay for production costs."
Already on board as sponsors are Chronic Tacos, Jersey Mike's, Wing Stop, CPK, McDonald's, KHTS-AM 1220, SCVTV, Curtis, The Signal, Southwest Airlines, Monster, the Marriot, Andy Gump, La Quinta, SOS Entertainment, Juice It Up, the SCV Youth Project, the St John Company, Rockerrazzi, Paige Photography, and Nu Salt Lasers.
Potential sponsors may contact Lieberman at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 661-252-6110, ext. 479.
Tickets are priced at $20, and will be available as of this weekend at www.summermeltdown2012.com . "Some of the bands will have $10 presale tickets, and some Yes I Can kids will be selling discount tickets," Lieberman said.
"It has definitely been the most difficult year to pull off the Meltdown, with lots of obstacles," he said. "I think it will make it a sweet victory for the students to have a successful Meltdown and to see 30 artists come together for their cause and for their event. I have a feeling we'll definitely have a sellout."
Here's the Summer Meltdown 2012 performance schedule (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 .