Kenny Connolly

San Diego Street Scene @ Downtown San Diego 8/28-29/09

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For the last quarter-century, downtown San Diego has played host to Street Scene, a festival born in 1984 that featured headliners like Los Lobos, The Blasters and Joey Harris.

25 years later and San Diego is still rocking.

Last weekend, thousands of fans flooded the streets of East Village to see a diverse lineup that featured numerous genres of music on five stages, and those in attendance should not have left disappointed. Despite the unfortunate backing out of the Beastie Boys (medical reasoning), Street Scene not only introduced talented under-the-radar artists, but it also allowed the “heavy hitters” to show why they were selected as headliners.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue kicked off Friday’s festivities, introducing the crowd to their Southern style of music. “Shorty” incorporated his own flair into a variety of different music genres, playing everything from classic rock to jazz and even hip-hop.

The indie/folk scene featured acts like Devendra Banhart, Band of Horses and Conor Oberst, all of whom played rather mellow sets, enabling the crowd to prepare for the energy-packed night that would soon follow.

The Black Eyed Peas headlined the opening night and were pure adrenaline from the moment they appeared on-stage, fittingly, performing “Let’s Get It Started.” The jam-packed crowed grooved as the B.E.P. played a variety of tracks from their last three albums – Elephunk (2003), Monkey Business (2005), and The E.N.D. (2009), ending their set with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.”

A tough act to follow, Day 2 of Street Scene not only mirrored Friday’s performances, it trumped its predecessor. Saturday attracted a hip-hop influenced group of artists, starting with the Seattle-based hip-hop duo, the Blue Scholars. But the hip-hop headliners were not just your ordinary main attractions, they are arguably two of the most influential groups in the genres history, taking the rap game to another level in the 1980s and 1990s.

Busta Rhymes, like the B.E.P, was pure energy on-stage. But it was hard to find a group that topped the performance put forth by Public Enemy.

Flavor Flav and Chuck D, though a half-and-hour late, were well worth the wait, as the anticipation may have even added to their set. Flav, driving security guards absolutely mad, was in the crowd just as much as he was on stage. Whether it was taking stage dives or just running through the beer garden, Flav single-handedly kept the crowd entertained. Add Chuck D’s socially-aware lyrics and a set concluding with “911 is a Joke,” “Rebel Without a Pause” and “Fight the Power” and you have the performance of the weekend.

Silversun Pickups vocalist Brian Aubert was surprisingly brilliant live (it didn’t hurt having the beautiful Nikki Monninger tear up the bass live either). Los Angeles’ Ozomatli held an hour-and-ten minute long dance party, mixing their salsa/mariachi flavor with contemporary hip-hop beats and vocals.

Finally, M.I.A. made her presence known (with seemingly millions of horns) and the coolest stage of the weekend, a glow-in-the-dark themed set. Like Ozomatli, a dance party ensued, despite the challenge of actually knowing what exactly it is M.I.A. says in her lyrics.

Street Scene lived up to the billing and has got zero complaints over here – That may be a different story is you ask CAKE vocalist John McCrea about his experience, who spent most of his set complaining about everything.

Band of Horses
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Black Eyed Peas
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Black Joe Lewis
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Blue Scholars
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Busta Rhymes
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CAKE
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Carney
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Conor Oberst
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Crocodiles
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Davendra Banhart
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Dirty Sweet
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Dungen
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Gram Rabbit
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LA Riots
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Mastodon
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M.I.A.
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Of  Montreal
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Public Enemy
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Silversun Pickups
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The Dead Weather
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The Faint
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