Friday, September 19, 2008


Today's Jukebox comes to you the day Street Scene comes home. The New Pornographers probably won't do their cover of "Your Daddy Don't Know," but I won't be there to find out. That's fine by me, though; I was there for what many people have called the last real Street Scene.

By 2003, Street Scene was a local institution, our own Lollapalooza and Warped Tour, a big factor in the rebirth of downtown SD. The line-up that year was full of bands I'd eventually adopt in my listening habits, like Flogging Molly, and Ozomatli and old favorites like Concrete Blonde. By the next year, the town was literally not big enough for it, its' streets and parking lots being usurped for the sake of tourist dollars, garish hotels and nightclubs, and a new ballpark that was supposed to provide the winning edge for a baseball team that continues to lose it. And for its' downtown swan song, Street Scene gave me my two favorite concerts of all-time.

The weekend started with a rock en español triple-bill: Kinky, Nortec Collective and Cafe Tacuba. For three hours, I soaked in my language, danced, moshed, awash in a sea of Mexicanidad. I felt more at home in the crowd than I did in the six months I had lived at home since returning from Kansas. In the years since, Kinky has become one of my favorite bands; I've seen them at four festivals, yet never at their own show. Still, I've enjoyed watching them transcend Mexican Radio -- literally -- and become the best band you've never heard. I'll include another clip of theirs here:

On the final night, my friend The Homie Kate joined me for an afternoon climbing fake walls, walking around the grounds, and seeing how plausibly I could call in to work that night when she tipped me off to an afternoon set by Wilco. Within an hour, "California Stars" had made its' way onto my all-time Top 10 songs. They were the perfect warm-up act for the band I'd been waiting to see all weekend, R.E.M.

Scoff all you want, but Out Of Time and Automatic For The People got me through high school as effectively as Document had for the generation before me. And here they were, between albums, so they didn't have anything to push, meaning they could indulge us with a varied set. The ensuing two-hour(!) set touched on every stage of their career up to that point, culminating, for me, with "Nightswimming."

The show was the closest I'd felt to a church-going experience since my first communion. I was so wiped, physically and emotionally, that I could barely even walk. It didn't take much lying for me to call in sick, after all. And the next year, the festival was gone.

Street Scene has literally been all over town, in stadium parking lots in Mission Valley and Chula Vista, and nearly at the racetrack in Del Mar, smaller, with "brand-name" acts, and each year you'd hear more people bemoan what it used to be. Returning to downtown, people hope, will be the first step toward reclaiming some of that old city magic. I wish them luck.

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