There are many ways to help American veterans, including donating money, food or clothing to various organizations, or volunteering your time.
But here’s the perfect way to give back while actually having a blast. VetFest 2016 – which hits Mana Wynwood in Miami’s Design District on Friday night – gathers together live music, DJs, food, drink, art exhibitions and fashion shows for a blowout event in honor of the brave men and women who keep us safe.
With a hip and eclectic musical lineup featuring Austin, Texas, indie-rock band Bright Light Social Hour plus several top local acts, VetFest is a party not to be missed. And it’s all for a great cause – half the proceeds will be donated to Prosperity of Warriors, a nonprofit organization that assists veterans in their transition back into civilian life.
“Veterans risk their lives to protect this country, and it is only fitting that we put together an event of the finest caliber to bring the community in honoring them,” Johann Torres, CEO of DNA Entertainment, said in a statement. “This event is open to everyone who wants to celebrate what being an American means.”
Torres, who curated and booked the musical acts at The Stage from 2011 until it closed its doors last year, realized that using his contacts and eye for talent would help attract South Florida’s youth to such an event.
“We’re honoring American veterans with a flag ceremony and much more, but we wanted to make it fun at the same time,” he said. “We’re bringing in Bright Light Social Hour, which is a psychedelic punk indie-rock band, plus local talent including SunGhosts, a very young and exciting band; Otto von Schirach, who is more bass and hip-hop; Juke, which is more rock and blues; spacekamel, another good young band; plus DJs.”
For SunGhosts, which was voted Miami New Times’ Best Band of 2015, this event is much more than just another gig.
“I imagine a lot of the young kids nowadays don’t know too many veterans from World War II or any other wars, so they don’t really know what that means,” said lead singer and guitarist Nik Olas, sounding much older and wiser than his 26 years. “The reason that all these young kids can be on their phones, enjoy Snapchat, hang out with their friends and have all these luxuries in this beautiful fantasy life that we’re living, is because we have people that give their lives and sacrifice so much in the military. It’s really important to spread that kind of awareness, and I think we should definitely honor that and have people know about that.”
Olas knows Torres from The Stage scene, and says he’s flattered that he chose SunGhosts to go on right before Bright Light Social Hour.
“They’re one of the big reasons we’re so excited to play this,” he said. “We saw them play at the Coconut Grove Arts Fest two years ago, and they were amazing. They come to Miami with this Texas psychedelic progressive rock vibe, and it’s not too crazy that you don’t know what’s going on, but the musicianship is groovy and all the guys are jamming. You can’t even tell what parts they didn’t rehearse, the improvised parts – it’s just all feels like there’s that chemistry. I love seeing live musicians like that, and it’s nice to be opening for a band like that.”
Fans can expect to hear plenty of tracks from SunGhosts’ new self-titled album, which was produced by two-time Grammy-winner Joel Someillán (Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, Chayanne, Thalia). But the show won’t simply be a note-for-note reproduction of the band’s tunes.
“We like to change things up a little bit live and do some extra jamming in between songs,” said Olas. “I think that’s really important – you hear the songs as they are on the album, but then you want to hear a little bit more musicianship, and kind of get lost in a jam for a little bit. I’ve always loved that, so you’re gonna see some of that, for sure.”
For those who are wondering how the band chose its cryptic name, Olas says it came from an old song lyric of his involving “sunlight specters.”
“I really liked that imagery in my head, but it was too wordy,” he said. “So I cut it down to SunGhosts, and when I told the guys, they were like, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool to me.’ The imagery I get when I think of that is light and dark, sun and ghosts, the duality that’s always present in life. There’s always a positive and a negative, a dark and a light, and not one of them is either good or evil – it just is what it is. There’s much to be appreciated in both aspects of the spectrum.”