It's Monday morning and another Street Scene is officially in the books. And while it's important to note that this parking lot extravaganza of fog-filled stages, oddly eclectic line-ups, mind-altering drugs and festival food has reached it's 25th year, it's also worth mentioning that I'm no longer a stranger to this two-day Coachella by the sea. Although for anyone that was there, the temps this weekend were actually fit for a desert, or maybe Satan's ass crack.
But harsh heat aside, Street Scene had plenty to offer the locals and those (like our Music Editor Albert Ching, photographer Beth Stirnaman and myself) who drove across SD County lines just to be there. Even as an avid concert and festival goer, losing my Street Scene virginity involved many images that I 'll never be able to unsee, for better or worse. A handful of those images inspired this short list of some of the best things I witnessed while traipsing around this coastal asphalt cluster fuck of color, sound and light. Here it goes, the top 12 things I'll always remember about street scene '09
#12) Drunk Speedo Man: First of all, it's not a real festival (or concert for that matter) until security has to throw someone out for partying too hard. And while I'm sure SD's "Scene Team" security guards did plenty of ass kicking and cop calling and zip cuffing between Friday and Saturday, the best example I saw came on Saturday as Albert and I were schlepping over to see The Dead Weather at the Fulano Stage. Swarmed by 3 big dudes in neon yellow security shirts, a rail-thin, pale Street Scener wearing nothing but a blue Speedo and sandals was being hauled to the front gates with his arms pinned behind his back. As the hurricane of shouting and semi-male nudity passed us, all I could hear was the fattest security guard of the bunch yelling "make a hole!" as the authorities dragged their half-naked captive through a sea of people. Word to the wise: If you're planning on getting shit faced and out of control at a concert, try to be a little bit more discerning about the undergarments you decide to wear that day. Regrettably, I don't have a photo of this, but I'm sure you can use your imagination.
#11) Will. I. Am Rambling: This year, the Friday night headliner was none other than mainstream mega stars The Black Eyed Peas. I thought I'd seen the last of them after Powerhouse at the Honda Center and the OC Fair, but there they were. In addition to putting on their usual high energetic set filled with full-body costumes, robots and laser beams, will.i. am decided to share some personal stories about the group's early days in San Diego/Street Scene/ blah blah blah. Whether it was reminiscing about their early days at Belly Up Tavern, or recounting their first performances at street scene where supposedly the beginnings of the song "Let's Get Retarded" were first improvised, Will was definitely playing to the local crowd...maybe a little too much. And towards the end, he started singing an impromptu hook for a song that may just end up being the next Black Eyed Peas hit. It basically involved him repeating the phrase "for a looonnng tiiiiime!" over and over. Funny, that's just what it felt like listening to the head Pea's bloviations between songs.
#10) Old Couple dancing to The Dead Weather: Despite the fact that festivals like this are supposed to be all about the young people, I actually saw a lot of old people at Street Scene. It wasn't a bad thing, just unexpected I guess. It caught me a little off guard watching an old man and his wife two-stepping together during the The Dead Weather's set on Saturday. Though the husband seemed to be just obliging the request of his smiling, gray-haired wife, there was something distinctly charming about watching to seniors gettin' jiggy to Jack Whites chaotic drums, a wall of shredding guitar and Alison Mossharts piercing howls. It's a sound that required more of a visceral body thrash than a slow motion Fox Trot with your spouse. But hey, we should all be so lucky one day.
#9) Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears: There were a lot of bands at this year's Street Scene that I had heard before. Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears wasn't one of them. But as I approached the Fulana stage to pass the time before Ra Ra Riot went on across the parking lot, I couldn't help but be drawn in by the gravelly soul tenor and balls-out funk. Backed by a set of white boys in Oxford shirts and black ties, the band cranked out a 35 minute mixture of back beat grooves, brass and unflappable Motown sound behind the Wilson Pickett-esque vocals of Black Joe Lewis. As hometown favorites from Austin, Texas, the signs of of the south were written all over their sound, while bringing a new and exciting charisma to the table. It almost sounded like a counterpart to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings...only with a dude of course. They ended up being one of the best acts I saw on Saturday.
#8) Zee Avi/Vickie Chang sighting: It's always good to see some familiar hometown faces in a far away land. Okay, so maybe San Diego County doesn't exactly count as far away since it kisses the borders on San Clemente and other far out cities on the OC map but it was far enough. So being able to spend some time watching Zee Avi, a singer songwriter from Costa Mesa by-way-of Malaysia, was cool. Despite some guitar problems that plagued the later half of her set, she handled it like a pro, strumming through soft, sweet tunes like "Honey Bee", and other love lorn inspired tracks from her Brushfire Records debut. Things were made even sweeter by an encounter with our web editor Vickie Chang (who happens to be dating Zee's bass player Harris Pittman).
#7) SD night life: It's often said that OC's club/live music scene can be lacking at times. And more often than not, those comments come from people that live here. So whenever possible, I love to check out what other counties/regions have to offer when the sun goes down. And after this weekend, OC seems to have a bit of an edge on SD when it comes to the bar scene, even though that might not be saying much. Though we were pretty much confined to the downtown area, Albert and I scoped out a bit of local nightlife that consisted of homogeneous chains like Yard House and Rock Bottom Brewery, iPod DJ dens and fake Irish pubs.
Although we did seek refuge at a local watering hole called El Dorado which wasn't half bad. Dark and cramped though it may have been, the music on Friday was pretty good, followed by a performance by an M.I.A.-esque artist named Amanda Blank. But the natives do enjoy their liquor, some way more than others. I got news from Albert about some dude barfing on his friends sandals (while he was still wearing them) in the mens room at El Dorado. As far as I know, they ended up hanging out together the rest of the night. Now that is true friendship.
#6) Conor Oberst 2.0-The hippie version: When you think of Bright Eyes frontman/ emo demigod Conor Oberst the word "flower child" never really comes to mind. Unless you're talking about someone throwing a rose on a casket somewhere. But in his latest project, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, fans witnessed quite a change in one of Saddle Creek's favorite sons. In addition to his songs being a bit more up beat, SD apparently inspired him to dress for the beach, or maybe a spiritual pow wow drum circle. From his face- full of chin whiskers to the tie die Jimmy Hendrix shirt and sandals, Oberst was looking pretty laid back and lighthearted. As he and surprise guest Jenny Lewis belted out the chorus of the Rilo Kiley classic "Portions for Foxes" I think I might have even saw him smile. He should try it more often.
#5) Grandpa at Girl Talk: I know, I know, I've already had a spot on the list for old people. But still, it never ceases to amaze me every time I watch anyone over 40 subject themselves to the music of the millennial generation. Aside from being one of DJ cultures masters of mixing and mash ups, Girl Talk's set is know to have a lion's share of foul language. But the old man in front of me didn't seem to mind. While rocking his shoulders and shuffling his feet, he seemed rather thrilled to dance to the lyrics of "My Neck, My Back" over some futuristic crunk beats. I dunno just something about watching an old man dance to a song with lyrics that scream "my neck, my back, lick my pussy and my crack" just appeals to my base sense of humor. Deal with it.
#4) M.I.A.-Minor's Indecent Ass shaking: This was the second time I've seen M.I.A. perform live. The first time was just this past spring at, you guessed it, Coachella. And while her mixture of high pitched yelps, mechanical beats and neon swagger never seem to get old (despite the fact that she seems to be a little higher on these festival bills than her one-hit status should allow), I was a bit disturbed by what I saw at her show this time around. Oddly enough it had more to do with the flock of pre-teens in front of me than the actual performance. As I was doing my best to groove to M.I.A. jams like "Bamboo Banga", and "Boyz", I was constantly being bumped into by a group of girls that looked like they just got their braces off. The worst part was that they couldn't keep their hands or other bodily parts off of each other. They seemed to be everywhere, no matter where I moved. I don't know if this speaks more to the failure of parents of the MTV generation or that kids are starting to take drugs at a younger and younger age, but all I can remember thinking was "are these kids fucking high?" and "where are their parents?" Geez, I sound like my dad.
#3) Rad Hatter: There are few non-edible items at a two-day festival that are really worth buying. Most people aren't very interested in copping a concert tee for $50 or some bogus pair of D&G knock off sun glasses. But when I saw the booth for Rad Hatter, it was the first time all weekend that I was tempted. All you Steph Calvert fans might consider looking into this San Diego-based business that trades in making do-it-yourself headwear that will allow you to look like you're on acid, even if you've never touched the stuff. We're talking Mad Hatter style dome tops slathered in glitter, feathers, markers, ribbons and pretty much any product you can buy from the good people at Lisa Frank. It took nearly all of my cheap skate will power to keep from buying one, as I saw about a hundred people sporting them at various points throughout Street Scene. For being a hippie arts and crafts project, Rad Hatter is okay in my book.
#2) Sweating to Chromeo: Despite my ever evolving taste in the world of electro and house, the only time I've ever really gotten into Chromeo was recently with some of their latest dance floor anthems ("Call Me Up" and "Mama's Boy" being the main ones). But seeing them live at Street Scene, allowed me to realize that this Montreal-based duo is more about the funk than anything else. As one of the biggest crowds on Friday gathered to watch them perform, I couldn't help being sucked in by the vocoder prowess of P-Thugg and the Joe Strummer charisma of Dave 1. Bumping everything from their newest jams to west coast inspired cuts from album She's in Control, they had just about everyone within listening distance bouncing on their toes and flailing their arms. If anything, it was probably the most fun I had the entire time I was there.
#1) High-fiving Flavor Flav: There comes a time in every person's life when something so epic happens that it seems to occur in slow motion. In the final minutes of Public Enemy's classic set of fist clenching, stage antics, and palpable energy, front man Chuck D launched into the one of the final classics, "Fight the Power" to a roar of frenzied fans.
It had been, quite an interesting set to say the least, mostly due to Flavor Flav's cracked out demeanor, which by now is not exactly a shocker. Running about 10-15 minutes past their alotted set time, Flav decided to whip up a little extra support by diving off stage and running through the crowd. As security guards, the Scene Team and a buff, dread locked Prof. Grif chased him through a sea of bodies I saw realities gold-toothed gold mine make a sharp turn and head in my direction with his arms up, high fiving fans and shouting in audibly into a microphone. My heart stopped, my eyes got wide, my right hand went up and as he passed me, out palms connected....perfectly. Talk about a moment to remember for the rest of my life. I'll never wash this hand again. On the other hand, he did date Brigitte Nielsen...maybe I should reconsider. Here's a little bit of what you missed, courtesy of You Tube:
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