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Gary Walker, festival co-founder: 'There was the year we had the racing camels from Virginia City. You walk into a street fair and there were huge camels you could ride ... I got the last two parking spaces at the Best Western set up with hay and we put the camels there on Saturday night. They were looking over the fence at the people going by.'

So Long, SoFA


Note: In light of this week's events, the SoFA Street Fair has been postponed until September 30. See the official press release from the San Jose Downtown Association for details.

A MERE NINE years ago, a Bush was in the White House and the economy... well, the economy sucked--funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Likewise, with a handful of clubs and a couple cafes, SoFA (South First Area) was an emerging entertainment district in the soon-to-be-revitalized downtown San Jose.

Nearly a decade later, it turns out that maybe it takes a little longer than we thought to revitalize a whole city, but one of the first steps in the right direction was made on Sunday, Sept. 27, 1992, when the first SoFA Street Fair took place on South First Street. Created in the days when Gen Xers were still getting tattoos (instead of taking pains to conceal them), the fair flaunted a more Bohemian bent than its downtown cousins like Tapestry in Talent, and it celebrated alternative culture and, of course, music.

Michelle Radke
Fire in the Belly: Festival-goer Michelle Radke endures navel piercing, al fresco.

But these days, the neighborhood has changed--and so has the fair, which has evolved from a freewheeling free-for-all to a more traditional sort of music festival (the addition of gates and an admission charge over the years has given the event a more official air). And after 10 festivals, the event organizers have decided to call it a day, citing decreased attendance and waning interest on the part of SoFA business owners.

But the SoFA Street Fair can't go into the night without a proper send-off. To bid the fair a fond farewell, Metro dug around in its archives for some photos from the event's early years and asked festival co-founders Gary Walker and Fil Maresca and a few of the bands who've played the festival over the years to share some of their memories of the event.

F/X Players
Special F/X: The F/X Players put on a show.

Krenshaw guitarist Ryan Landes: "I remember my band at the time, Dear Deceased, opened up the first ever SoFA on the main stage nearest Cactus and what used to be F/X. This was way before 12-foot fences, $6 an hour security guards and cover charges. We got to our studio to pick up our gear and there was a fire in one of the studios! Our singer Eric--now singer for Woodshed--kicked down the door and we put the fire out. SoFA saved my Marshall's life! We showed up to SoFA in Rocko's world-famous school bus, and played our first ever 11am metal show. After about 45 minutes of sunlight and skin cancer we ran over to Cactus to play again. Once on stage I was looking over the crowd. There was a hot moist B/O rain forest like mist hanging over their heads. That's METAL!!! That's the first time I saw all my drunk friends in the daylight--now I know why we go out at night."

Dave Baisa, guitar and lead vocals for the Odd Numbers (possibly the only band that's played every single SoFA): "I'd have to say one of our best shows of all time was '96 SoFA at the Cactus. It was the most packed and out of control I've ever seen that club. The SoFA is going to be greatly missed. It was by far San Jose's biggest and best party of the year. Hopefully with this last one it will go out with a big bang. Leave it to San Jose to wreck a good thing."


Lounge Acts: SoFA fans take an eponymous break.

Gary Walker, festival co-founder: "The funnest part was creating the event, to watch it change over the years and change with the times. ... It was so unique for San Jose. I don't think there's anything else that happens for that niche, young people, music lovers."

Fil Maresca, festival co-founder: "The event always happens on a Sunday and we have to build it overnight. We have eight hours to take the street and make it an event site. In less than 24 hours, we go from a street with traffic to a street with traffic...It was almost a bonding experience for me and my crew. I would leave F/X at midnight and go next door and start working on SoFA. We'd carry sofas in to the middle of the street. It was all volunteers, all the club people got together and worked on it."

Gally On the Air: Artist Gally goes before the TV cameras, with Marsugi's--now Agenda--in the background.


Fil Maresca, festival co-founder: "The nice thing about it is that it's always been about the neighborhood. Its purpose was to unify the neighborhood and it did. People discovered places like Blossom Floral and Sal and Luigi's."

Kelly Dalton, vocalist for Krenshaw: "My favorite memory of SoFA was being a 'new' band last year and seeing Krenshaw posted on the top of the marquee at the Usual. It really pushed things to the next level for us on the local music scene and created a lot of fresh opportunities for the band."

'Rocky Horror' Cast
Time Warp: A local cast of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' takes it to the streets.

Salmon frontman Lawrence Martinez busts out with this funky on-the-spot freestyle when asked about his fave SoFA memories:

    "bros in green afros up on stage I suppose
    part of my favorite memories are those of flows
    shared with drunks in the first 7 rows
    all you who were there know who you are, so
    freestyles with Willie's are #1 in my mind
    SoFA times and rhymes I will miss those kind
    and all the crazy ass fools who got down in bands
    word em up Chuck cuz them times are like sand
    ........thru the hourglass.........."

Ron Johnson Hip to Be Square: Ron Johnson, a member of the band Congo Square, takes in the festival.


Zero Magazine Stage at Gore Park

11am: Swarm (contest winner)
Noon: The Shitkickers
1pm: dredg
2pm: The Odd Numbers
3pm: No Use for a Name
4:30pm: X

San Carlos Stage

11am: Box Lunch (contest winner)
Noon: Tiana Noyes and the Boyes
1pm: Atomic Mint
2pm: Stunt Monkey
3pm: Pansy Division
4:30pm: Squeeze the Dog
5:30pm: Hot Town Jubilee

Arts Stage

11am: My Fat SIster (contest winner)
Noon: emaneht
1:15pm: Matt Nathanson
2:30pm: Modern Gypsies
4pm: Silicon Valley Poetry Slam Team
5:15pm: Moonlife


The SoFA Street Fair was originally scheduled to take place on South First Street between San Carlos and Reed streets in downtown San Jose on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, 11am-7pm. Tickets are $8 adv/$10 door. Due to the recent tragic events, the Fair has been postponed until September 30 (see press release). For more information, call 408.279.1775 or visit http://www.sj-downtown.com/eve_eve_sfa.html.

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From the September 13-19, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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