Surf, Sand and Burning Man
Venice’s Christopher Hawley plays Mission 24 festival on Saturday, returns to Santa Monica Farmers Market on Sunday
By Bliss Bowen
When you’re battling crosstown traffic, it’s easy to forget that much of the rest of the world thinks we live charmed lives here.
“California Dreaming”-type moments like one Christopher Hawley recently experienced explain why.
While waiting out a “lull between sets,” he got to jawboning with a couple of fellow surfers at Paradise Cove — one of whom mentioned that he needed music for his wife’s popular podcast. Hawley memorized the guy’s email before jumping back in the waves, contacted him when he got home, and then finalized a license for his song “Missouri Breaks.”
“It was a huge blessing,” he says with a laugh. “Totally unexpected, and the first time I’ve ever done that.”
It may have been the first time he’s licensed songs on the beach, but the scenario’s fluid spontaneity is not unusual for Hawley, a guitarist and songwriter who moved to Los Angeles in 2001 from Colorado, where he spent most of the 1990s. He followed studies at UC Boulder by recording and touring with a jam band whose following was large and loyal enough that it still helps him get bookings.
“We had a great audience,” he says. “It was around the time that Phish came out and jam bands came out. I’m going to play Colorado in September, and when I called up one of the venues I used to play at, the guy remembered.”
Hawley’s familiar to Westside and Central Coast audiences too. He hosts a singer-songwriter night the third Wednesday of each month at O’Brien’s pub in Santa Monica, and whether playing solo or with his band the Christopher Hawley Rollers, he’s a frequent presence on stages at local clubs, farmers markets and festivals like this weekend’s Mission 24, a 24-hour music and arts festival where he’ll be performing Saturday.
Not surprisingly for a jam band veteran who claims Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia and Bob Marley as heroes and is fond of slide breaks, Hawley’s music is characterized by laid-back rhythms and positive messages. Credit for some of that goes to his two other passions: surfing and yoga.
“That’s one of the biggest inspirations: my yoga practice and being here, living in this area,” he says. “There are so many amazing teachers and great studios that are opening up all the time. And my day job, especially this time of year, is surf instructor. I do that on the side. … I’ve always taught people different things, whether it’s guitar or I coach soccer too. That’s another kind of day job.”
He’s planning to play an acoustic set at Mission 24, possibly with guests sitting in on keyboard and percussion. Material will come from his sixth album, which he’s currently working on, and 2013’s “Rise and Shine,” which leans more acoustic than his full-band outings. Simple tunes like “At the Farmers Market,” “Tecate on a Hot Day” and “Waiting for the Snow” were originally aimed at the family audience at his Tuesday residency at Basement Tavern.
At Mission 24, which aims to join the jam band and Burning Man communities, Hawley will join a parade of local DJs, clowns, aerialists, fire spinners, drummers, face painters and musicians, including Boomz Pharm, Liquorbox, Sheldon & Cunnane, Barley, DJ Torytee, Pres, Jerry’s Middle Finger, Stevie Starlight, Cory Phillips, Gun Hill Royals, Pretty Dirty & Funky, Par Avion, the Dirty Shakes, Marcos, Hola Policia, Redwoodstills, Grass Hopper and Captain Choice. Specifics regarding the location, a West L.A. warehouse, will be announced two days before the event.
“It’s a space that used to host all-night electronic music parties,” he explains. “This time it’s gonna be a little more organic, with bands and real instruments, a little more rock ‘n’ roll-oriented. There’ll definitely be a Burning Man art installation. … It’s that whole visual and sensory-overload artistic scene that keeps you up all night because there’s so much going on.”
Hawley’s joined buddies at the “city in the desert” before, but says he finds its spirit here at home.
“Venice allows me to experience the same things I love about Burning Man without dealing with the heat. Venice has a Burning Man feel. Seeing the same faces around, all the creative stuff on the boardwalk — there’s definitely that element here.
“So I don’t have to go to Burning Man,” he says, laughing. “Whenever I get home from Burning Man, I jump straight in the ocean.”
Spin Cycle presents the Mission 24 festival from noon on Saturday, Aug. 15, through noon Sunday, Aug. 16, at a warehouse in West L.A.; the specific location will be announced two days
prior to the event. Christopher Hawley performs from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Must be 21 or over to attend. Tickets $20: eventbrite.com/e/mission-24-tickets-17839025004. Hawley also returns to the Santa Monica Farmers Market (2640 Main St., Santa Monica) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. Free. To learn more about Hawley, visit christopherhawley.net and christopherhawleyrollers.bandcamp.com.