Founder and President of Cumulus Presents, Inc.
You’ve said your mission statement is to build community through music and the arts. How has this manifested throughout your career?
I’ve always enjoyed bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and helping to provide a warm, safe environment to gather around and share, especially with music and storytelling. It’s fun to experience everyone relaxing together, being joyful and creative, whether they are patron, staff member, performer, vendor, community member or anyone else tangentially associated with an event. Many people have gotten to know each other through these events, crossed paths, and learned from each other in ways that may not have happened otherwise.
You gathered world-class Celtic artists from around the globe for the 3-day Sebastopol Celtic Music Festival for 16 years. What made this event such a big success?
Actually, some of the years the festival was four days. This event was like a big, family gathering and, in many ways, felt like a reunion each year for everyone involved, including the musicians. I believe that it was the environment that we created and the quality of the artistry that helped to fuel the engine that was the Celtic Festival for all of those years. It made a good many people very, very happy: patrons, volunteers, performers, vendors, staff and community. To be honest, I miss it very much.
What musical events have you brought to Analy High School and other schools in the area?
One of my very favorite events through the years was when I brought George McGovern to Analy, especially the part where he spoke to the entire high school student body and he was treated like a rock star. That was very special, though not musical.
Also, when I arranged for Michael Franti to come and share his movie about his trip to the Middle East and then performed a solo concert for the kids (his only school appearance ever, at least at that point), or the school show that Arlo Guthrie agreed to do at Analy as a favor (largest turn-out of parents and grandparents to volunteer for a class field trip, many teachers told me).
There was also Joan Baez (singing while standing on the painted peace sign for the play “Hair” that the drama department was performing), Doc Watson, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Blind Boys of Alabama (co-billed with David Lindley), Nanci Griffith and, most recently, Ani Di Franco. And there was many a Celtic Festival with a number of the greats in the genre from various places around the globe, not the least of which was Liam O’Flynn, the legendary, great Irish (uileann) piper, who, along with two other Irish musical greats, did me the ultimate favor of flying over from Ireland for the one concert at Analy after the rest of their entire two week tour in America had been cancelled.
Please compare the first Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival (which you brought to Caswell Vineyards in Sebastopol in 1996) with today’s much bigger production, held at Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville.
Well, in some ways one could look at the two as being quite different, as Caswell Vineyards had the one stage, no lights, and we closed up shop each day by dusk. No one camped there. At Black Oak Ranch we take up 150 acres of a 700-acre parcel, have four stages (not counting the kids’ stage), exponentially more vendors, a majority of attendees that camp, a river, an all-night fire circle, a beautiful shower house, and a staff (inclusive of volunteers) of some 800 people.
We’ve grown to four full days, having started out as a one-day event that eventually grew to three days (no nights) at Caswell Vineyards. We still adhere to the same principles of bringing all parties involved together into as harmonious a community as possible. I’d say that the demographic has changed to include more families, with multi-generations being represented, and more and more young folks as we continue on. They say that they enjoy the mellowness, and sense of safety, that they feel at our festival.
One other detail is that a few years back we dropped “Memorial” from the festival name, as now we like to consider the festival a celebration of Kate and her style. Every year we have multiple sets of Kate’s music, with new performers learning and sharing their versions of her material, as the years go by.
Can you share one of your favorite stories or memories about an event you produced?
Just one? That’s rather difficult actually, because over the 20-plus years of doing this there are so many to choose from. I’ve been encouraged to write down many of the experiences I’ve had, as being in my position provides a rather unique experience and view of an event, compared to that of the many people that attend or perform. I’m not sure I know where to start, as most stories would take up quite a bit of space.
I would say that overall some of my most favorite experiences have been finding that I have enjoyed many of the performers I’ve worked with as much—if not more—as people as I have their music or art. The people who, over the years, that have told me about how they fell in love at the Kate Wolf Music Festival, got married and have created a family has been really special for me, as were all the folks that told me time and again how the Celtic Music Festival was like Christmas in September, or the most fun family gathering they could imagine.
As to specific stories, on the quick I could mention the joy of relaxingly hanging out with Donovan in the production tent up in Laytonville, the bare-chested, sweaty bear hug I received last year from Smokey Robinson after his set, with him whispering “I love you, man” in my ear (nice guy, with a very special handshake); or the time Liam O’Flynn, Arty McGlynn, and Rod McVey flew in from Ireland to do the one concert at Analy High School Theatre (for the Celtic Festival) as a favor for me.
And, I’ll probably never forget when George McGovern, after we had spent the entire day together (breakfast, talk at Analy High School for the entire student body, lunch, dinner, evening talk to the community, and drive down to a hotel near the airport in San Francisco), asked me if I would consider being his running mate if he chose to run again (not to mention listening to his impersonations of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon while we were driving—he was quite good).
The post-festival Celtic Music Festival parties were very, very special affairs. Really, I could go on and on and on, now that I’ve started—maybe I really should consider writing it all down… while I still have my memory intact.
What musician or band would you still love to book?
Well, Leonard Cohen has always been high on my list. This year at the Kate Wolf Music Festival we have Harry Belafonte scheduled, so that certainly is a check off the ol’ bucket list. SD
About Cloud Moss
Cloud Moss, founder and president of Cumulus Presents, Inc., has been producing music festivals and concerts since 1995. Cloud is also the founder and director of both the Sebastopol Celtic World Music Festival and the Kate Wolf Music Festival (produced by Back Roads Productions, LLC, since 2008, of which Cloud is a founding and still-current partner). He is a resident of Sebastopol.