They gathered at the downtown clock tower around eight o’clock in the evening. At first, there is nothing to alarm or catch the eye of passing motorists, but the group soon swells to around 200 cyclists, and it becomes impossible to ignore.
The clock strikes nine and a cry spreads through the crowd. They are off — a mass of whirring wheels ready to take on the streets of Santa Cruz.
The group that rode through the city on April 7 was organized by FMLY. An artist collective originally based in Los Angeles, the organization is dedicated to making positive change through art while promoting creativity and sustainability.
The bikers traveled through four different locations throughout the night listening to different bands, participants in an event designed to bring people together and to introduce FMLY values to Santa Cruz.
“We can no longer live with the mentality of the ‘me’ generation,” states FMLY’s blog, thefmly.com. “We feel that we must become united for the greater good — for music, politics, and our environment.”
And united they rode. Biking with FMLY can be an opportunity for people to listen to local bands and bond with fellow riders.
Roby Behrens, UC Santa Cruz student and member of local band The Jolly Llamas, described how FMLY has brought all kinds of people together for a good time.
“It’s just a really fun experience,” Behrens said. “The main reason I come here is to see friends I don’t usually get to see. Through FMLY, I’ve been connecting a lot of my friendship groups. I’ve noticed that a lot of people I have been friends with for years are friends with people I have just met in college and they are already doing FMLY together.”
Chris Campbell and Jaz Zinda are both UCSC students and FMLY representatives in Santa Cruz. Campbell explained that the organization is a tight-knit community based on symbiosis between its members, forging connections between artists and featuring them on the blog.
“It is all based on sharing,” Campbell said. “To join FMLY, you have to be in music and want to bring something to the table to help the bands out, and in return, you get the backing of this blog that gets 80,000 hits a day and is a powerhouse in the indie music scene.”
Zinda explained that FMLY comprises a wide variety of musicians and artists who can all add something different to the community.
“It’s pretty diverse,” Zinda said. “As long as you have something to offer, no matter what it is, you will find some nook, some cranny that you can fit into.”
Campbell and Zinda, with the help of others, organized a group ride together and created a line-up of four local bands — No Jet Left, Disengorified, Time Machine Modulus, and James Rabbit — to play along their route.
Most riders were UCSC students who had heard of the ride through Facebook event invitations or by word of mouth. Campbell and Zinda hope to plan more FMLY rides in Santa Cruz to take place on the first Saturday of each month.
After the initial evening take-off, riders biked to four different locations in Santa Cruz, overflowing into traffic lanes and attracting attention to their antics.
The first stop was in an empty parking lot near Natural Bridges. The first band, No Jet Left, played a short set over the hum of a generator while their audience hopped off 200 bikes and began dancing.
Campbell believes the group rides are representative of FMLY’s ideals of community, inclusiveness, and sustainability. They are also a means of reclaiming open space, employing unused land for new purposes like creating new artistic venues.
“This is a bunch of youth who will have to live together in the forthcoming century,” Campbell said. “What FMLY is really trying to do is to make people aware of the sort of lifestyles we need to have in the future in order to keep living on this planet. [We are] trying to get a mentality shift in the youth so that we are out here doing something really responsible. It’s promoting bikes, it’s promoting music … and it provides us an ability to go out and take space back.”
At the end of their wild ride through Santa Cruz, all the bikers share a common bond. They are now considered FMLY.