Local Band sleep well. Organizes the Second Annual Besito Fest
May 23, 2019
- AfterGlowATX.com | Photo By: Isabel Canales and Cat Pozos
Music with a mission
On Thursday, May 30, 2019, the second annual Besito Fest will take place at Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex in San Antonio. The coordinators tout the festival as a celebration of love, life, local art, and music that also promotes personal safety and social consciousness. This year’s lineup features a number of up-and-coming acts, including sleep well., the irons, Sisyfuss, Mírame, Vonna, Wrongbird, Boog, Money Manti$, and Chavela!
All proceeds from the Besito Fest will benefit the Rape Crisis Center of San Antonio. The festival will also support local artists by featuring merchandise such as handmade clothing and jewelry by San Antonio–based vendors, who will take home 100% of their sales.
The event is organized by the band sleep well., which was founded by Andrés Garcia (lead vocals and guitar), a sophomore journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin, and Marco Martinez (vocals, guitar, and keyboards), a first-year student at St. Edwards University. Completing the ensemble are three Southwestern students: Mark Fountain ’21 (drums), a philosophy major; Dominic Gomez ’21 (bass and self-professed “band dad”), an environmental studies and anthropology double major; and Ricky Olivares ’22 (guitar), an environmental studies major. The tight-knit group—who all attended high school in San Antonio except for Fountain, an Austin native—formed in 2017, and in the two years since, they’ve already produced two full-length albums, Pure Romance and Who Is the Prettiest Star?, as well as an EP, Girl Cuts.
“We are a social-justice band. We are an inclusive band. We care about people. That is our mission.”
Their melancholic, dream-trippy sound is hard to categorize: Some may say feel-good rock or indie pop; others might classify it as beach rock or bedroom pop. Garcia has said it’s “sad music that sounds happy,” and I’d describe it as the kind of music you’d listen to as you’re winding down for the night. Garcia comments that their genre can change from project to project while the band continues to evolve, and Gomez chimes in that their live sound is not necessarily representative of their Internet presence, which doesn’t yet encapsulate all their playing styles. One thing, however, remains constant: “We are a social-justice band. We are an inclusive band. We care about people. That is our mission,” says Fountain.
Music as social justice
That commitment to social justice and inclusivity can be seen in their coordinating of Besito Fest, an event they first put together in summer 2018 with the purpose of providing a safe environment where audiences can enjoy a range of musical stylings without having to worry about the presence of abusers and rape sympathizers. They first conceived the idea for Besito Fest after the band members had begun to notice a significant problem in the San Antonio music scene over the past couple years: Survivors of sexual harassment and assault were coming forward with stories of traumatic experiences at concerts, but performers and sound crew members who had been accused of perpetrating sexual violence were still being booked as opening acts or headliners, and rape sympathizers were showing up at concerts when they knew they were unwelcome. In addition, Gomez says that sleep well. has even had to cancel performances in which they were originally slated to appear with bands that included members who have been accused of assault or harassment or who have sympathized with known abusers and victim silencers. “That’s something we don’t want to be associated with,” he asserts.
So the ensemble decided to create a music festival where the performers, crews, and audiences would be vetted and known abusers would be turned away, ensuring a safe environment where fans can dance, sweat, and lose themselves in the music without worrying about being groped or threatened. The band then went a step further by choosing to donate all proceeds from the shows to the Rape Crisis Center of San Antonio; last year, they raised $1,500 for the nonprofit.
“It shouldn’t be an act of bravery to go to a show,” Garcia says. “You should be able to go to a show and feel confident you’ll be safe. It should be a haven.” Fountain agrees: “For me, personally, whenever I’m playing or writing or listening to music, that’s when I’m at my happiest,” the drummer comments. “Going to a music venue should be the safest thing you do. It should be a wonderful, unifying experience.”
Martinez sees Besito Fest as the first step in raising awareness about the issue and creating change at the local level. It’s an important intervention that echoes the crescendoing calls by audiences and artists around the U.S. and across the world to prevent and curtail intimidation and violence at concert venues. Garcia says, “We’re men, and we account for a majority of the sexual assault that happens on this planet, so it’s our responsibility to listen to the survivors.” However, the band clearly understands their role in enacting change: Martinez emphasizes that “we’re in no position to speak for survivors. We’re doing this and supporting a good cause, but we’re not speaking for them; we encourage survivors to tell their own stories.”
By setting a positive example, sleep well. hopes that Besito Fest will convince central Texas promoters that they can book a diverse but well-reputed range of artists who can still draw crowds while creating and maintain safe spaces in the music scene. “It’s not brave or courageous,” says Garcia. “It’s what anyone who books shows should do.”
Gomez adds that advocating common decency in the music scene is part of the goal, but so is creating and maintaining community. “We do our best to be inclusive in every way,” he comments. “We’re an LGBTQ ally band, and we want everyone to feel comfortable at this concert. And we support local vendors and merchants, especially people who make their own clothing and jewelry. It’s all about getting them that exposure, too, and making them part of this beautiful, safe community.”
Music with heart
Organizing an annual music festival in one of the nation’s largest cities is quite an accomplishment for students who are only in their first two years of college, but sleep well. takes on the challenge with aplomb. It helps that Gomez and Garcia had previously helped coordinate Central Palooza, a music festival at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio. Gomez is also currently the president of the University Programming Council (UPC) at Southwestern while Olivares is a member, so the band is used to collaborating with others to organize major campus events; Gomez was instrumental in making this past March’s Music on the Mall a success.
Making a positive change in the music scene is their genuine commitment.
But it’s also clear that the impetus for putting on Besito Fest and making a positive change in the music scene is their genuine commitment to what Garcia calls “the moral good.” The band, in other words, is all heart.
When you’re lucky enough to get sleep well. in a room together, you get the feeling that you’re in the presence of a chosen family: they listen to each other, they interrupt each other, they correct each other’s memories of shared experiences, and they laugh at themselves and at their bandmates. But they’re also immensely grateful for being “taken in with open arms” by their fellow young musicians in San Antonio, crediting such artists as D’Vonna Miller, of Vonna, for “looking out for” them and helping them book shows in their early days. Even the origin of their band name is heartwarming: they were originally Girl Cuts (“a name we proudly leave in the past,” Garcia laughs), but their current moniker is a tribute to the lead singer’s late grandfather, who used to text him each night, “Buenas noches, que duermas bien” ‘good night; sleep well.’
But that love for and gratitude to family, friends, and fans extends to the wider community.
For example, sleep well. has found support for the band’s values here on campus. Fountain, Gomez, and Olivares are proud to be members of the University’s chapter of Kappa Sigma, an organization that values safe spaces—a concept mirrored by Besito Fest. Fountain says that the fraternity brothers hold each other accountable; any instances of homophobia, hypermasculinity, sexism, or other inappropriate behavior are called out. Says Gomez, “We’re not a typical fraternity: we’re a safe space, we’re very observant in how we run things, and we’re very mindful in how we plan things. Everyone at the end of the day does what’s best for the community.”
The broader Southwestern community, too, has embraced the band. “We appreciate SU’s culture around music. Students will come together to support shows,” Martinez says. But beyond attending performances, SU students’ willingness to stand up for important causes has made an impression on Gomez. “The student body and the faculty are knowledgeable, they demonstrate good judgment in being able to call things as they are, and they take social-justice issues very seriously,” he comments.
It’s no wonder, then, that Fountain, Gomez, and Olivares have found their home at a university that champions respecting the worth and dignity of others and encouraging activism for the common good. “I just love people. I want everyone to be loved,” Fountain says earnestly. “We all grew up in a racist, sexist, homophobic world, but we all have to be better… . The more you get exposed to other people, the more you get to learn.”
Second Annual Besito Fest
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Doors open at 5 p.m.
Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex
108 Blue Star, San Antonio, TX 78204
Purchase tickets here.