Sunstock Solar Festival: Skylar Funk, on the power of music

1
Trapdoor Social, playing a solar-powered show Sunday afternoon
Trapdoor Social, playing a solar-powered show Sunday afternoon

Upon his graduation from Pomona College with a degree in environmental analysis, Skylar Funk was asked to come up with a job description. He settled on “climate ninja.”

That would make a pretty cool band name, actually, but Funk and classmate Merritt Graves had one of those: Trapdoor Social, an indie-rock outfit powered by buoyant melodies, sweet harmonies and eclectic instrumentation. Their second EP in 2014 was titled “Science of Love” — but much of their musical efforts have embraced the love of science. In particular, renewable energy.

Funk and his bandmates have toured the U.S. doing solar-powered shows, and their proselytizing has now led to their most ambitious project yet: the inaugural Sunstock Solar Festival on Saturday, June 18, on the south lawn outside the Autry Museum in Griffith Park. Headlined by indie favorites Cults and Wavves, the impressive lineup includes Allah-Las, Kaki King, the Big Pink, yOya and Gateway Drugs, along with Funk’s own band.

Billed as the first event of its kind to be 100%-powered by solar energy, it figures to be a feat of technology as well as a treat for music fans.

“We need to make a statement that the world needs clean energy and that we need to protect our future,” Funk says. “One small way to do that is to show that we can do a rock show anywhere anytime.”

Trapdoor Social’s own solar generator, which yields 3 1/2 kilowatts of juice, will be one of an armada of trailers powering Sunstock. The 28-year-old says there will be five others like it to power the festival grounds and one bigger trailer to power the stage. While using solar to augment power at major events is not new — the Warped Tour and other major festivals have done it for years — Funk hopes that the sun-themed evening of music in L.A.’s own backyard “can make the statement that much bigger and re-energize the sustainability movement.

We want this to be where eco-minded people come to party

“We want this to be where eco-minded people come to party.”

On Sunday afternoon, Trapdoor Social was taking the party to the people — they performed a matinee set at the Village at Topanga on an outdoor stage powered by their trailer, which was parked around the corner.

Profits from the event will go toward installing money-saving solar power at the nonprofit Children’s Cancer Connection facility.

Even having brought on nonprofit partners to help promote Sunstock and music industry veterans to help with logistics, Funk says organizing Sunstock “has pretty much become my full-time job recently.” That’s delayed the release of new Trapdoor Social music; the band pretty much has a full-length album wrapped up.

“Yeah, it’s slowed down our music,” he says, “but it hasn’t slowed down our mission.”

Trapdoor Social, on the road with their trailer

Trapdoor Social, on the road with their trailer