Day of Music Fullerton Showcases the Heart and Soul of the OC Music Scene

Life is like a Day of Music Fullerton. You never know what you’re going to get. You can make a game-plan for the city-wide celebration and plot all the stops to make (using the official Day of Music Fullerton App or the recommendation of some helpful journalist) and still might wind up experiencing a few surprises along the way.

For this former Fullertonian, the adventure started at 12:30 p.m., in the shady court of Villa del Sol, where Los Dos Saxos y mas were scheduled to begin the festivities at that particular location — some bands had already gotten fired up elsewhere. Like the first few sips of a morning cup of coffee, a few saxophone scales and a bit of the Godfather theme permeated the garden as the elderly sax duet warmed up. Right on schedule, they offered their decently populated arena a polite greeting and then proceeded to serenade their guests with a charming set, which included such diverse numbers as “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and the Star Wars “Cantina Band” song. Alas, this was to be a day of music sampling; plus too much of a good thing…

By 1:00, I had arrived in the parking lot out back from Roadkill Ranch & Boutique to see what The Ded Hedz were all about. Evidently, the name was not connected in any way with the Grateful Dead; what it was connected with was a youthful garage band, which rocked out for a bit as a few more people began to wake up and join the folks under the shaded canopies. Good stuff! After a few minutes and a glance at the old digital clock, it was time to push on. So far, everything was going according to plan, but as Allen Saunders wrote [over 20 years before John Lennon rephrased it in “Beautiful Boy”]: “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” Or, in short, the band at the next stop wasn’t set up yet.

At precisely 1:30, it was difficult to gauge who the musicians were and who the civilians were because no one was set up to perform outside Stadtgarten. It is, of course, a lovely little courtyard and a good place to check e-mail messages, text loved ones to let them know you’re thinking of them, or even have a refreshing drink and a sandwich. Eventually, Waker Glass, an alt indie band from Ontario, started rolling out some groovy melodies. As they started to change it up and get a bit rowdier, it was time to push on to make the next scheduled stop.

The next destination was Matador Cantina’s Agave Room. More break time — nice air conditioning though. By the time I had to leave to make the following appointment, the Latin rock trio HERMANOS was just getting started. I caught a few strains of “Seven Nation Army,” which sounded decent enough, before I ventured on. The following couple of stops saw things getting back on schedule with two respective folksy acts. First there was The Darden Sisters at Back Alley Bar, who announced to a packed house that they’d be performing a year’s full of requests, which included some Beatles, Elvis Presley, and other, more traditional, Americana / bluegrass fare. It was easy to see why they’d packed the house; they were really good.

The second group in the folk block was The Elefunts, who performed their indie folk music to a smaller crowd at Ziing’s Bistro & Bar. The good folks at Ziing’s were kind enough to treat this sweaty traveller to a glass of ice water as the first three (out of four) members of the band started playing. Their sound was actually quite big for three performers, and boy did they play a mean “Lay Down Sally.” Had there not been a mission at hand, I would have loved to have stayed for the whole set — especially given the exclusive nature of the performance. However, it was not to be.

I left the band (and their very well-designed donation bucket) to head on down to Atelier Mela, where Rockabilly Rats were supposed to be getting started at 4:00. As I walked through the door, the duo, which consisted of a smartly dressed (and pompadoured) young man on a Gretsch guitar and a young gal, in complementary fashion, who stood and tapped away at a scaled-down drum set, were just finishing up. No decent assessment of their musical prowess is possible since they wrapped up their set the moment I walked in, but the two sure looked a pretty picture. The shopkeeper confirmed that they had started early. No matter; the next appointment was at Plummer Auditorium, so there was extra time to take the walk. This is when the proper surprises began.
En route to the next destination, I ran past Ukulena & Her Smitten Kittens, a fun little rock / soul group I’d seen before, and then I saw a fellow in a tie-dyed t-shirt holding court with a guitar at the Fullerton Museum Children’s Park. The man was Brandon “Monk” Munoz, and nearby him stood a half dozen or so children with what looked like oversized glowsticks, which they used as percussive instruments by striking some playground equipment. When I passed through, he was leading them in a performance of the Day of Music classic number “Seven Nation Army.” This was Boomwhackers, a showcase sponsored by Rhythm Band Instruments. Running along, I made it to Plummer, where I had believed the Femme Fest (a showcase of female performers) was scheduled to begin at 4:30. When I arrived, a band called Quiet Girl (which featured a female guitarist / singer) was in the middle of their set, in front of the auditorium. A decent-sized crowd enjoyed a pretty tight performance by the indie rockers. After they wrapped up, I discovered that the Femme Fest line-up wasn’t scheduled to begin for a couple hours. Time to check the old e-mails, again.

After taking in the scene at the Fullerton College Sculpture Garden, where art students painted at their easels and bunches of groups of friends congregated, Deep Sea Madness launched into a set of their hypnotic, experimental rock tunes. After a short while of enjoying the trance, I left to make my appointment with the next group of musical spellcasters. On my way past the Fullerton Museum Plaza, I became captivated by the musicality of Mexico. The non-profit organization Rhythmo Mariachi Kids was performing “Cielito lindo,” and I could not help but be swayed by the familiarity of the tune, as performed by 20 or so children and their teacher — all dressed to the nines.

So enraptured was I by the crowded family scene in the plaza that I barely made it in time to hear the pop / country / folk duet Sugar Sugar perform a sweet and soulful tune called “Jenny’s Back” at Goldie’s. At this point, the day was becoming long, but I pushed on to check out the Arabic folk performer Emad Gabra, at Magoski Arts Colony (Violet Hour). As I sat waiting, the air rang with the sounds of some nice Middle-Eastern dance mixes; unfortunately, by the time I had to push off, the Egyptian singer / songwriter had not yet begun his performance.

The final destination for the day was the Continental Room. When I arrived, there was an unscheduled band, which I was told was called Westport, performing to a generous crowd. They were a decent indie rock band, and they were shortly followed by indie punk band The Eleventh Frequency. They opened with a catchy song, which I believe was called “Five For Your Mind,” which included the refrain: “We’ll never compromise!”

As with any music festival, it is impossible to catch all the acts, so one must make choices. In the case of this third annual Day of Music Fullerton, part of the international Fête de la Musique, some of the observed concerts were chosen intentionally and some were dictated by fate. Regardless, once again, the citywide event has successfully demonstrated a great deal of diversity in talent and taste in the spirit of small town community. See y’all next year!

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