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Rick Rubin organises ‘secret’ Italian festival

Helmed by the legendary producer and record industry mogul, Festival of the Sun was held over two days in Tuscany

By James Hanley on 27 Jun 2024

Rick Rubin

image © jasontheexploder/Flickr

Legendary American record producer Rick Rubin organised a “secret” festival in Italy last weekend, starring acts such as James Blake, Beth Ditto, Jovanotti and members of Arcade Fire.

Low-key “summer solstice celebration” Festival of the Sun was staged in the commune of Casole d’Elsa, Siena, Tuscany, from 21-22 June.

“It’s a beautiful little town not too far from where I spend my summers, and it felt like a pleasant thing to do,” Rubin tells A Rabbit’s Foot. “It began life as a music festival but it also includes screenings with Andrew Dominik, meditation sessions, and culinary events with locally-sourced meats, cheeses, and speciality dishes.

“I realised I love film and the arts, craftsmanship and food and I wanted to combine all of them – even involving the traditional cheese makers from the area. So many things switch on the senses out here and I thought it would be nice to have a gathering where people can come together to experience that.”

The 61-year-old Def Jam co-founder reveals he was inspired to launch the multi-disciplinary gathering after visiting filmmaker Terry Gilliam, who runs the Umbria Film Festival in Montone, Italy.

“He’s been doing it for 28 years, but I hadn’t heard of it,” says Rubin. “It’s just 200 people and the coolest thing.”

“This isn’t a big concert everyone paid to see. It’s experimental. The whole thing is really an experiment”

Details about the programme were communicated only via the event’s website and social channels, with the lineup carefully curated by Rubin, who owns a property in the region, to ensure it fit in with its surroundings.

“It’s as special for James Blake to be here as it is for the people in the town,” he says. “It’s not every day they get to perform in an Italian church, in front of people who don’t know who they are, let alone their songs.  It’s challenging, but that’s what I like. They have a sense of taking chances.

“This isn’t a big concert everyone paid to see. It’s experimental. The whole thing is really an experiment.”

Variety notes that only 150 invitations were sent out for events in the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta church, where most of the performances took place, but the town’s main stage was open to the public with free admission.

Other attractions at the festival included a talk by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey entitled “Tech and Freedom”, while director Andrew Dominik introduced a screening of his Nick Cave documentary This Much I Know to Be True.


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