Street Scene: less sound, more scene

Donna P. Crilly

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San Diego’s 25th annual Street Scene, which recently reclaimed its rightful place in the checkerboard streets of downtown, was less sound, more scene.

The two-day music festival, which took place on Aug 28 and 29, had a sleepy tone Friday as gaps between bands’ sets left wandering concertgoers sound-seeking and sun-screening.

It wasn’t until the brink of dusk when music began pulsating from every direction. Unfortunately, sound problems proved a recurring theme as several bands’ music cut out entirely during their sets. Frustrated scenesters will likely remember the scorching heat rather than the bands themselves.

Making up for Friday’s lull was the homecoming of Anya Marina, a former FM 94/9 disc jockey turned musician. Marina’s cutesy voice and pop-acoustic rhythms had loyal fans toe-tapping and singing praises.

From there, the ‘scene took an upward turn. As nightfall struck, it seemed as though the drowsy concertgoers jolted awake and a sudden burst of energy filled the tents.

Although a brief power outage on the Green Stage annoyed fans during the Nortec Collective set, the electronica-infused Mexican ranchera band managed to keep the morale high and the danceable beats pumping.

Crocodiles topped off the Saturday line-up at the Casbah stage. The two-man band blends Lo-fi with high-reverb. Sounding like rebel children of Echo and the Bunnymen, Crocodiles’ small set began the day with a better outlook than the previous day’s stream of trip-ups. What the band lacks in members, they make up for in noise.

A delightful surprise came in the form of Zee Avi, whose soulful voice and mellow, jazzy vibe proved that less is more. The 23-year-old singer’s rhythm guitar and ukulele playing was smooth and consistent. It wasn’t until sound problems came looming on the Green Stage, yet again, that Avi’s set was practically ruined. After ten minutes of leveling out the sound, it seemed as though the Avi was finally ready to continue her set. Unfortunately, she was drowned out by the “Yeas,” “Whats” and “Boyees” of Public Enemy beginning their set across the way at the Fulana stage.

The Zarabanda stage proved to host the best acts Saturday evening as Ozomatli infused Latin grooves with hip-hop and brief stints of hard rock. After seeing a slew of disappointing acts, a few good ones and one great performance here and there, it was a relief to watch real musicians put on a show.

At the end of the night, most concertgoers rushed off to watch M.I.A. prance around in neon-tights, wearing sunglasses with the waxing gibbous moon shining high above the street. The Zarabanda stage seemed nearly deserted except for a handful of eager fans waiting to hear some real soul music.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings dazzled. Jones came out jiving and “doin the boogaloo” to the most exciting performance of the entire festival. Jones is the epitome of soul and the Dap Kings do her justice. Strutting like Tina Turner, Jones’ powerful voice was in the tune of 1960s soul music, much like the styling of James Brown. Unfortunately, most concertgoers missed to her to be a part of the scene.

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