Sasha Gonzalez: Music Festival Maestro

The Washington State University school year had begun and the students behind the alternative station KZUU 90.7fm were gathered in an empty classroom for orientation. Sasha Gonzalez weaved her way to the front to close out the meeting, “We’re gonna make Kazzufest happen this year,” she said. “And I want you dudes to help.”

The music festival that was to become Kazzufest was born a year earlier out of booze and bowls on the sticky wood floor of a much-partied in college house. KZUU Director Jasmine Albertson and Sasha were coming down from a long night of drinking Two Buck Chuck. As is like to happen with anyone who spend hours a week planning their radio shows, the conversation turned to music. This time it was the lack of a scene in the small college town.

“We don’t have to bitch about this anymore, you know? We could make this happen. A festival in the Palouse,” Sasha mused.

There’s a graveyard out there somewhere for all the big ideas born on drunken nights, but Sasha was determined to keep this one alive. Fame and music are tied intimately together at her core and this was a chance to bring them both out.

Her first thirst for fame came as a child when she heard Pink Floyd’s “Money” with her grandpa. Soon after she joined choir, where her Catholic teacher would often look on in horror as Sasha took the stage in a high-waisted skirt and sequined shoes. In high school she was running and planning social events. Kazzufest was just an extension of everything that had come before.

The initial attempt at Kazzufest a year earlier had failed spectacularly. Despite the best laid plans, everything fell apart at the last minute when sound technicians cancelled the day of, taking their stereo equipment with them. Sasha was wiser this year and wary of the pitfalls that may lay ahead.

The official Kazzufest meetings began immediately the week after Sasha’s initial announcement. Her binder was already brimming over with objectives, lists and doodles when she moved into the room. There were bands to reach out to. There was money to raise. And there would be opportunities for everyone to shine.

Funding for Kazzufest was going to come from a series of house shows, stylized Haus Shows, she said, as a way to promote local bands and bring in cash. Sponsorships with Pullman businesses would also help to bring in the money and boost community participation.

Committee members hit the streets to raise support. Promotional packets were distributed. Artists contacted. Caterers courted. Contracts signed. The year buzzed by, marked by a series of successful Haus Shows that drew in community members and gave a stage to independent artists.

Sasha spent that time in the middle of everything. Always three steps ahead of whatever needed to be done. Hotels were booked months in advance. Ironclad contracts were written up with bands (and sound technicians). The style of Kazzufest was discussed and brightly colored signs and knick-knacks were crafted to add an atmosphere to the event.

Despite the popular support and fundraising efforts, Kazzufest was still short on cash.

“I thought I was gonna have to take out a loan,” Sasha said in an interview.

The venue was paid off, but if the event wasn’t a success, paying the performers was going to proof difficult.

The day of Kazzufest, Sasha shot out of bed and rushed to the The Belltower event building in downtown Pullman. As soon as a committee member stepped foot through the door, Sasha assigned them a task and then whisked away to wrap up some minor detail in another part of the building.

The clock struck two and the first band took the stage. A couple dozen early attendees were inside enjoying the show, but there was still no line of students lining up outside to purchase tickets.

That happened around 4.

Sasha’s money worries evaporated around the time the fourth band took the stage. The venue was filling up with more people and word was getting out via texts and social media that Kazzufest was the place to be this Saturday.

By the end of the day, over two hundred students had attended, and Seattle band Chastity Belt had brought the concert to a rockin’ close.

Goodbye, see you next year!

The committee members ran around congratulating each other on a job well-done and reveling in the aftermath glow.

In the middle of them all was Sasha, already dreaming of an even bigger Kazzufest next year.

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