Feb 21, 2020

re:FUSE Fest gives local voices a mic

Photo Courtesy of re:FUSE Fest

Saturday marked the second annual Fresno Urban Sound Experience Festival, complete with more than 40 bands and DJs in seven downtown Fresno venues. With no headliners and with genres spanning from hip-hop to gypsy horn music, the festival sought to display Fresno’s diverse sound.

Showcasing the unique musical talents Fresno has to offer was the goal of the festival from the start, Fresno Urban Sound Experience (re:FUSE) festival organizer Josh Tehee said.

“Fresno has this amazing local music scene and we want people to know about it,” said Tehee, who cited the festival lineups from both this and last year as evidence of the ample gifts the city has to offer.

“It’s a really wide, eclectic group spanning all ages,” said Tehee in reference to the performers of the festival. “You have guys who’ve been playing in Fresno for 20 plus years. You also have some guys who just started playing music and then you have people in between.”

One such performer is Robert Barron-Gushel, who’s sung in Fresno for more than 15 years. Barron-Gushel, also known as “The Voice,” acts as songwriter, piano player and vocalist for his band, The Super Lucky Catz, which performed at Joe’s Steakhouse during the festival.

The group’s sound, according Barron-Gushel, is a mix of styles and musical ideas. Ultimately, he said, the definitions are left up to the fans. “Music is so personal. We want to let people connect with our sound without walls or labels placed upon our music,” Barron-Gushel said in an e-mail interview with The Collegian.

The re:FUSE Festival offers an important addition to Fresno, Barron-Gushel said, because everyone benefits from it. “Any time you are able to share your passion with people it’s a good thing,” he said. “re:FUSE is great because it helps not only to serve us as artists, but the community as a whole.”

Barron-Gushel encourages both performers and the audience to support Fresno’s artistic events. “The more we promote venues like re:FUSE, the more we will be able to ensure the growth of our local art scene,” Barron-Gushel said. “Only then will we as a city be able to compare ourselves to great music cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles.”


All of the bands at the re:FUSE Festival perform music locally. This makes for an authentically Fresno experience, Tehee said. “Why would we want to bring in a band from San Francisco or San Diego to play this thing and take a spot away from a band from Fresno?”

Niilo Smeds, vocalist and guitarist of the band “Wheels of Fortune,” has played music since the mid-1990s. The four-member group, which cites “The Velvet Underground” and David Byrne as influences, has performed together for more than three years and with the current lineup since early this year. “Wheels of Fortune” performed Saturday at the Spiral Garage venue of the re:FUSE Festival.

Smeds appreciates the unique way the festival celebrates and promotes Fresno’s talent. “Most festivals rely on big-name headliners to draw the crowd,” Smeds said in an e-mail interview, “but I think re:FUSE has the potential to have a much bigger impact on the community and the cultural life of the city.”

Smeds said the re:FUSE Festival is a definite step in the right direction and hopes to see Fresno’s music scene expand to encompass “more bands, more venues and more people coming out to shows.”

Tehee would also like to see the city’s musical landscape develop further. “In the ultimate sort of reality of downtown, what you’d want to see is something like this happening every weekend.” Tehee said. “This is just sort of a glimpse of what that could be.”

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