Left Coast Livin'
By Gary Singh
LAST FRIDAY, the debut of Left Coast Live brought ample hordes to see music all over downtown San Jose. Two outdoor stages kicked off the event in the SoFA district, with everyone spilling into numerous bars and spaces during and after. Dozens of venues offered their own lineups while a few impromptu acoustic jams took place on various parts of the sidewalks. Many people came for the headlining acts on the main stages, while others targeted specific acts in specific places and made those venues their home bases for the evening. (See Club Gallery on page 63 for photos.)
Some highlights: Booker T. occupied the main stage with absolute serenity. The man was smooth as silk, a master of atmospheric noir Hammond B3 soul. Eulipia was jammed. Chris Burkhardt, one of San Jose's most overlooked guitarists, belted out the delta blues, right where he usually slings plates of salmon. It doesn't get any more local than that.
Over at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Kenny Schick, who played with the local band Dot 3 back in the '80s, did an eclectic acoustic set with his wife, Artemesia. Right next door, in the Emile's parking lot, teen bands rocked out for their friends and parents.
San Jose's 1960s legends Count Five likewise rocked out on the A.P. Stump's patio with Robert Berry even jumping in for a few numbers. The crowd danced, drank, had a good time and spent money.
Hip-hop act Lyrics Born brought the entire ensemble cast and pleased crowds on the main stage, with many fans subsequently heading over to VooDoo Lounge for more.
South First Billiards featured bands on two stages and functioned as an effective stopover, since beer wasn't being sold outside. Having two stages crammed inside that venue was fun, to be honest. The only downside was the Left Coast Live volunteer at the door, clipboard in hand, who irritatingly asked everyone which band they were there to see. Imagine if you went to a restaurant and somebody stood there at the door with a clipboard and got in your face, demanding to know if you were there for the asparagus or the cole slaw. That's how silly it was.
Which primes me to propose that folks who supported the original SoFA Street Fair during its 10-year run from 1992 to 2001 probably found it impossible not to see this event as ultimately a watered-down and sanitized equivalent. Instead of setting up used sofas in the street, they should have had couches covered with plastic so they wouldn't get dirty, har har.
Also, while I understand that certain regulatory officials in this town might have 1930s-gospel-tent-era biases against anything alcohol-related, it was pretty damn silly for adults not to be able to drink a beer while watching the mellow grooves of Booker T., especially after paying $20 for the whole shebang.
Another thing: Many local underground bands and fans are still lumbering around from those original SoFA days, consistently packing the Blank Club, the VooDoo Lounge, the Caravan and other venues. Since Left Coast Live wasn't even marketed until about a month beforehand, throngs of local bands and fans who still consider themselves longtime supporters of the music scene felt dissed for not being more directly involved with the event. They were saying it almost felt like a bunch of newcomers from other circles, who'd never even been part of the scene here, suddenly came out of nowhere and deemed themselves the "rebirthers" of the music scene. Nitpicking or not, I totally understand that point of view.
In any case, Left Coast Live was absolutely a success. It brought a variety of people downtown—young and old—who normally would never have been there, with most of them staying around till late. And the police, instead of taking the usual pre-emptive interventionist position from the get-go, actually transformed themselves into community officers and had fun too. There were no packs of troublemakers rolling in from God knows where. Everything was peaceful. Let's just hope it stays that way.