Uniting the Valley with Music and Public Transportation

By Esther Sanchez

On Sunday, Nov 1st, dozens of the valley’s best musical performers will be boarding Sunline buses and entertaining the riders from bus-stop to bus-stop, city to city across the valley. Created and produced by the non-profit group, The Coachella Valley Art Scene, the fundamental purpose of the 111 Music Festival as I understand it is to foster unity and positivity amongst desert residents through the undeniable power of live music while giving a unique platform for local musicians to perform on, all while promoting and supporting public transportation.

Basically, if you hop on a sunline bus anywhere along the 111 route this coming Sunday between 3:00 and 7:00 PM, chances are you will be experiencing a live concert while in transit. Also, throughout the day there will be even more artists performing on a stage that will be set up along the bus route at the Cathedral City Festival Lawn, located in front of the City Hall and the Mary Pickford theater. In addition to live music at this location, there will be interactive art displays and food trucks. Ideally, attendees can ride the line to and from this stage venue and ride along with the music.

Marketing director of CV Art Scene, Ian Cush: “We are continuing on a path of mission based productions. Bringing music out to places, integrating art and commerce, whether it’s setting up a gallery in the mall (something that is a current reality) or putting bands on a bus, the melding of unusual spaces and places with various art forms is something we do a lot of. Not everyone is comfortable with or in has the ability to go out to traditional venues and attend concerts or art shows. One reason we really love doing things this way is that we have found that often times if you want to be able to reach certain individuals with the arts, you have to take the arts to them.”

I know a lot of you might find the entire concept confusing or maybe even silly, and to be honest, when I first heard about this event last year I had my doubts. But, being the adventurous chica that I am, I decided not to knock it before checking it out for myself. That was a decision that I am glad I made because, with all honesty, People…..it was really fun. My sister Serene and I boarded the eastbound bus at the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert along with one of my favorite valley bands, Machin’. Within a mile or two, half of the riders on board, young and old alike, were singing along and dancing in the aisle. The positive energy that was developing in the atmosphere was intoxicating and the unity that was fostered among commuters and musicians alike was uplifting to the soul.

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I will never forget the reactions from so many unwitting riders as they boarded the bus, just like any other day, only to discover a kickass party in progress. I clearly remember as Machin’ was busting out a delectable, cumbia jam and we stopped somewhere along the route in Indian Wells, close to many of the uber-chic hotels and resorts. That’s when a woman in her 40s, still wearing her maid’s uniform, wearily climbed the stairs onto the bus after a hard day of cleaning up after people who were on vacation. The initial expression on her face was one of bewilderment and caution that quickly changed to a beaming, ear-to-ear grin that was contagious. Most everyone on the bus shared the same grin. She took her seat across from me where she had a good view of the action and soaked it all in with an open-heart. That sweet, hotel-maid clapped and sang and stomped along with Machin’ and the rest of us throughout her entire commute home and before she exited the bus at her stop, she felt the compulsion to give each member of the band a big hug of gratitude. It seemed clear to me that the 111 Music Festival made her day and seeing that sort of reaction, over and over from multiple commuters made mine.

This unique event is the brainchild of the founder and director of The Coachella Valley Art Scene, Sarah Scheideman who first conceived of the idea while visiting her brother in in Portland, Oregon. Anyone who has ever spent any time in Portland knows it is a hub of creativity populated by a community of people who are known for fostering and embracing innovation and unity, most often through the arts. Portland has a similar event that takes place on its trolley system called The Streetcar Music Festival, and the concept flicked on a cartoon lightbulb over Scheideman’s head.

L.A. to La Quinta transplant, Ian Cush was a friend to Scheideman and the organization she created since its beginnings in 2008. Whenever his schedule would allow it, Ian would often make the trip down to the desert to help out on various projects utilizing not only his creative ideas and marketing expertise, but his sweat and elbow grease. Those of us with experience running a nonprofit know that it is a labor of love. Cush and Scheideman shared a passion for community outreach through the arts and utilization of unique, sometimes unexpected tools, venues and tactics for showcasing art in all of its forms. They also share a motivation for creating platforms, both traditional and unusual, for artists of all sorts to be able to showcase themselves to the public.

It wasn’t until last June, when CV Art Scene gained status as a 501c non-profit organization that Ian Cush decided to put down roots in the desert. Cush: “I finally felt like it was time…..like the desert was finally in the right place for us to be able to really pursue some innovative ideas. The mentality out here was really changing and opportunities were opening up so I decided that I was going to take a leap and move out here. I told Sarah that if we are going to do this we are going to jump in head-on.”

Of course, it must be said that this out-of-the-box idea would never have come to fruition, nor would it even be possible if not for the fantastic folks an Sunline Transit Agency. Innovators in environmentally conscience public transportation, the Sunline team possesses the kind forward-thinking mentality that allowed them to be open to the idea of allowing a bunch of rowdy musicians and DJs board their buses to shake things up for an afternoon. Not to mention the vision and foresight to grasp that this event is something good for the community.

In addition to the cooperation and support of Sunline Transit Agency,iIt warmed my heart to hear that seven local city governments whose citizens utilize the 111 route that runs through their borders, enthusiastically jumped on board with their support of this event and expressed support for the vision and goals presented to them by CV Art Scene. Even better than moral support on its own, the cities of Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella were generous enough to make monetary contributions in order to help make it all happen. With that much support and enthusiasm from our local leaders, the possibilities for the 111 Festival continue to manifest, blossom and evolve. I for one am looking forward to seeing what else CV Art Scene has in store for us.

For detailed information on artist lineup, schedules, awesome promo videos, FAQ’s and more, visit 111musicfestival.com

For updates on exciting events and projects from the visionaries at The Coachella Valley Art Scene, visit their website at thecoachellavalleyartscene.com and like them on facebook.com/thecvartscene.