Carlsbad Music Festival Returns With Global Pop

August 23, 2021

Where can you enjoy classic folk music, a string quartet, and the sultry voice of Pakistan’s rising star? There’s only one place that has it all: the Carlsbad Music Festival. The beloved community event is back from Aug. 27 to 29, offering an expansive list of artists for guests to enjoy in the heart of the Carlsbad Village. Celebrating its 17th year (the festival was cancelled last year due to COVID-19), the Carlsbad Music Festival is known for its diverse performances, welcoming environment and community spirit. While the full lineup can be found on the Carlsbad Music Festival website, founder Matthew McBane highlights the artists he’s excited to see and what else guests can expect from this year’s event.

 The Carlsbad Music Festival takes place on the lawns of St. Michaels By-the-Sea and Magee Park

After graduating from his music program at USC, McBane returned to Carlsbad where he was born and raised. Eager to kick off his music career, McBane invited his old classmates and other fellow musicians in Southern California to his stomping grounds to collaborate and jam. Carlsbad was an equidistant meeting point for everyone, but the city offered much more than convenience. McBane found that artists loved coming to Carlsbad, enchanted by the community atmosphere and picturesque beaches. The informal gatherings morphed into the foundation of today’s Carlsbad Music Festival. Today, the festival features artists from near and far, while still maintaining the congenial essence that makes it a cut above other events.

“The tagline of the festival is ‘adventurous music by the beach, and we’re always looking to inject different cultures, styles and perspectives through music into the Carlsbad community we know and love,” McBane said.

Matt McBane, creator of the Carlsbad Music Festival. Photo credit: Tommy McAdams

While the vibe of the festival is very homey, the expanse of the music variety is global. And the 2021 festival is no exception. McBane is especially elated to feature the captivating vocals of Arooj Aftab, who recently earned a spot on former President Barack Obama’s summer playlist. Aftab is a Brooklyn-based jazz vocalist and composer from Pakistan. Her moody style has been described as an intersection of Sufi-mystical poetry and independent rock.

Arooj Aftab is described by Pitchfork as “the defiant singer who’s reimagining traditional South Asian music”

It’s not just new and unique voices that Carlsbad attendees can enjoy, but sounds as well. Amadou Fall, a Sengalese musician, will be coming with his Kora in tow. A Kora is a 21-stringed instrument made from wood, calabash (gourd), cow skin and fishing line, and is often described as the African harp.

Attendees will also enjoy the sounds of The Mattson 2, Jason Diaz, Calder Quartet, Viento Callejero, and several others. McBane, who has been a part of a five-person instrumental group for 15 years, will also be performing under Matt McBane + Build. Guests can enjoy the on-site food and drink vendors or venture into the Village and grab their refreshments between sets. The Carlsbad Music Festival is still a family-friendly event, but there are a handful of changes to prepare for.

For the first time ever, this year’s festival will be an all-ticketed event. While the organizers of the Carlsbad Music Festival always left space open for free attendees, the need for tickets was crucial after last year’s event was cancelled. 

“The pandemic has been hard for many in the music industry, and we were not exempt from that. Offering tickets, both regular admission and VIP, will help us overcome the damaging side effects of a 2020 with festivals, concerts, and performances,” said McBane.

Tickets can be purchased at All performances will take place outside, event workers will be masked and sanitizing stations will be available.

“The festival has become an organic part of the community, and that’s because it’s truly a representation of everything people love about Carlsbad,” McBane said. “The culture, the community spirit, the accessibility, the environment is all here at the Carlsbad Music Festival.”