Putting the street back in Street Scene

This year marks the 24th anniversary of San Diego's "Street Scene" urban music festival and its return to downtown San Diego.

"We're taking it back to the streets," said Street Scene founder Rob Hagey.

This year the all-ages festival will be held Sept. 19 and 20 on the streets of East Village and adjacent to Petco Park. Forty bands, including Beck, Spoon, and Hot Chip, will play on four stages.

Originally, The Black Crowes were scheduled, but canceled its appearance. The Black Crowes canceled upcoming performances in Arizona, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Santa Rosa due to an "unexpected illness,'' according to a statement from the band's publicists.

In bringing the event back to the downtown area, organizers hope to recapture the success, mood and character of past Street Scene festivals.

"When we moved out of downtown we lost the vibe," said Hagey, who lives in Bird Rock. "It lost all of its urban feeling of being in San Diego in the streets."

Last year's event was held at Coors (now Cricket Wireless) Amphitheatre in Chula Vista and at the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot in 2005 and 2006.

Hagey stressed that the cool vibe of downtown cannot be duplicated. He predicts that people who have never been to a Street Scene event in the Gaslamp will be surprised the most. He described what he calls the Street Scene vibe as a combination of divergent musical performances, along with the mood created by the colors and lights that are projected onto the surrounding buildings as the sun sets over an urban setting, that's distinct from any other venue.

Angela Cummings of North County recalls hearing local cowpunk band the Beat Farmers at the very first Street Scene in 1984, "before the Gaslamp was the Gaslamp," she said. "How could you have a Street Scene if it's not in the street?"

Cummings has attended the festival the last four years running and has already purchased her tickets for this year's event. She believes that bringing the show back to the downtown area will be good for both concertgoers and local businesses.

Street Scene started out in 1984 as a one-day festival, with two stages and five bands. By 2003, it had grown to a two day event, with 12 stages and 120 bands. In 2004, according to organizers, Street Scene sold out both nights and drew a combined attendance of over 100,000 concertgoers.

Billy Zoom of the band X, which performed at the first Street Scene in 1984 could not recall much about the bands performance at the inaugural event.

"We don't see much, we're backstage," he said. "I do remember when backstage was just a couple of folding chairs in the middle of a parking lot. Then the next year there was a trailer that everyone shared."

X will be returning this year for what Zoom said is its fourth appearance at the festival.

Reflecting over nearly a quarter century, Hagey pointed out that San Diego has changed significantly in a rather short period of time.

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