[Sound Guy] Making a Street Scene

Making a Street Scene
Heard Mentality: The best of the music, arts & culture blog for the week of Aug. 17-23

After attending Street Scene, the two-day downtown San Diego music festival Aug. 28 and 29, I was left with this impression: It’s better than Coachella.

Oh, sure, there aren’t nearly as many big names or as many bands in general. You’re not going to get those once-in-a-lifetime reunion shows or appearances from bands who only set foot on U.S. soil once an epoch. The crowds aren’t quite as crazy, probably because there aren’t any fans who have spent thousands to fly in from around the world to see acts they never thought they’d get a chance to watch perform.

So, yes, there is that. But everything else about Street Scene is superior.

It’s simply a much saner experience. Whenever you talk to people about Coachella, you always hear how much of an endurance test it is to watch bands in the desert heat for three days straight. Basically, the penalty of seeing all those great acts is stretching your own physical and mental capacities to the limit for a weekend.

No such problems at Street Scene. Doors opened each day at 4 p.m., with bands starting soon after. It was a hot weekend in San Diego, but at least you could take solace in knowing you’d only be in the sun for a couple of hours, instead of eight.

There’s also the comforting feeling of being in a major metropolitan downtown area, rather than the middle of nowhere. We were able to stay at a hotel about a mile away—about the same walking distance as it is from Coachella’s stages to the Empire Polo Club’s parking, without the always-trying ordeal of entering and leaving the swamp of automobiles flooding the lots. Street Scene was never that crowded in general, which is probably not great for promoters but awesome for attendees—I was able to sneak up within the first few rows for Saturday-night headliner M.I.A., showing up only two minutes before she was scheduled to start.

Oh, and the music was good, too. It was, fittingly enough, a lot of the same artists who performed at this year’s Coachella: M.I.A., Cage the Elephant, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Devendra Banhart, Public Enemy, Girl Talk, and the Knux.

*     *     *

After months of speculation among the local music scene, Irvine/Newport Beach band the Jakes—known for catchy-pop-rock tunes such as “Cough Syrup” that highlight the smooth vocals of lead singer Sameer Gadhia—announced via MySpace that they’ve signed with Roadrunner Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Yeah, that’s the same record label as Slipknot, Killswitch Engage and Nickelback. Kind of odd, right? Clearly, it’s a sign that Roadrunner is looking to diversify—it already has Amanda Palmer and her duo, the Dresden Dolls, as well as Canadian pop-punk band Billy Talent on its roster.

Sure, there are obvious concerns about the label being a possibly bad fit or thoughts of the usual major-label horror stories, but the Jakes have distinguished themselves as one of our most talented young local bands, so kudos to them.



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