After attending Street Scene, the two-day downtown San Diego music festival that took place on August 28 and 29, I was left with this impression: it's better than Coachella.
Oh, sure, there's not 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 that only set foot on US soil once an epoch. The crowds aren't quite as crazy, probably because there aren't any fans that have spent thousands to fly in from across the world in order to see acts that 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 a saner experience.
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Whenever you hear people talk about Coachella, they always talk about how hot is, 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 that you'd only be in the sun for a couple of hours, instead of eight. Though it was really hot on Saturday. Really hot. Isn't downtown San Diego near an ocean of some kind?
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, which is about the same walking distance as it is from the stages to Coachella parking, without the always-trying ordeal of entering and leaving the swam of automobiles flooding the Empire Polo Club lots. It 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 of people for Saturday night headliner M.I.A., when only showing up about 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 that performed this year at Coachella: M.I.A., Cage the Elephant, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Devendra Banhart, Public Enemy, Girl Talk and the Knux.
So yeah. Coachella is still the innovator, the life-changing experience. But as far as a fun, (mostly) breezy two-day festival where you can just check out some cool bands, Street Scene is the "reasonable drive from Orange County" leader.