All too often, it seems that events which are intended to bring locals together end up appealing to only a small portion of the community. Whether it be in terms of entertainment, vendors, or even location, it’s not uncommon for people to feel like they aren’t represented or included in such events. On top of that, many of these events fail to even acknowledge contemporary culture, opting instead for classic rock tribute bands and vapid festivities. However, this was far from the case at Downtown Santa Ana’s East End Block Party last Saturday.
As the festival has grown over the past six years, there’s no doubt that it has started to attract a broader audience, bringing together a much larger community than just Santa Ana or even Orange County. Last Saturday was proof that families with strollers, moshing punk kids, local artists, and businesses can all enjoy, and ultimately benefit from, the same event. The music lineup alone was diverse enough that pretty much anyone could walk to any of the six stages and find something they could at least bob their head to.
The main East End stage, situated right in the middle of 4th and Spurgeon, featured hip-hop artists throughout the day, concluding with a short but climactic set by Hopsin. Other standout acts included DJ Carisma and Apollo Bebop, who set the tone for the rest of the day by rapping over nothing but drums in spite of a technical difficulty during his early set.
While the other stages also featured an eclectic mix of artists, the Chucotown stage on the corner of 4th and French was a world of its own. Throughout the day, some of the biggest local indie and punk bands played what basically felt like a backyard DIY show in the middle of a city festival. Early acts included the likes of ska/ punk titans The Steadians, indie/ surf queens Ariel View, and local thrash/ hardcore staple Tanzler.
As the sun started to set, the stoney rock-n-roll trio Bodegas took the stage and the crowd seemed to almost double in size. Passing families looked on with amusement as teenagers moshed and danced with each other while the band blazed through a mix of new songs and fan favorites. “It was really fun,” says vocalist/guitarist Chris Swanson. “Often times we are not given the chance to have an all ages audience because most of the clubs we have been playing are either 18 or 21 [and over]. So it was refreshing to see a lot of the younger kids supporting the bands. [It] reminded us of when we were that age.”
Next, Chemical X, who’ve gained a reputation for being the hardest working hardcore band out of Fullerton in recent years, played a set that was probably the closest thing to an old school OC punk show most of the crowd will ever experience. The band even made a limited run of t-shirts for the event, featuring a clever Orange County take on a classic Keith Haring design.
While Hopsin was finishing the night on the East End Stage, hometown garage rock heroes Los Hurricanes were closing down the Chucotown stage around the corner. Their high-energy, Farfisa organ-driven set seemed to be the epitome of Orange County rock and roll. The fact that such different artists can play the same free event is exactly what East End Block Party is about.
It’d be difficult to find another festival in Orange County, let alone the rest of Southern California, that is as community-oriented as EEBP. From the Beat Swap Meet Pop-Up record fair to the vast selection of food and coffee vendors, there was quite literally something for nearly everyone. Fourth street wasn’t lined with countless corporate sponsors or food and artists from out of town: it was a space for local businesses, restaurants, and even a cannabis dispensary or two to connect with the city. More importantly, it was a space for members of the greater OC community to connect with each other.