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North Park Music Fest will debut with fresh vision and Little Hurricane, Silent Comedy, Wavves, Whitney Shay

 Laura Chavez (L) and Whitney Shay
Guitarist Laura Chavez, left, and singer Whitney Shay perform on stage during a drive-in concert at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Aug. 15, 2020. Shay will be one of the headliners at this weekend’s North Park Music Fest.
(Daniel Knighton / Getty Images)

The two-day event will showcase more than 40 music acts from San Diego and Tijuana

Hello, North Park Music Fest! Goodbye, North Park Festival of the Arts!

After having its biggest annual event silenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit North Park Main Street is getting back to business in a big way this year.

Make that, a big, smaller and dramatically different way.

Founded in 1996, the volunteer-based organization this weekend bids farewell to its one-day Festival of the Arts and ushers in its ambitious, all-ages, two-day North Park Music Fest. What had previously been a free event that drew 30,000 or more people will now be a ticketed event with attendance strictly limited to 3,500 per day.

The lineup boasts a bevy of leading and rising homegrown San Diego bands and solo artists. Some of them have made an impact nationally and, in some cases, beyond. They include Wavves, Little Hurricane, Whitney Shay, Silent Comedy, Creepy Creeps, Montalban Quintet and such Tijuana-based acts as Tulenga and .357 Magnum.

Her Friday concert at the Music Box comes more than a year after the San Diego vocal dynamo’s “STAND UP!” topped Billboard’s national Blues Album charts

Performances will take place on three stages. They will be set up in a four-block radius behind the 93-year-old North Park Theatre, which has operated since 2015 as the concert venue Observatory North Park.

The North Park Mini Park, which opened directly behind the theater earlier this year, will serve as the event’s hub. The vendor-dominated format of the North Park Festival of the Arts will be replaced by the inaugural North Park Music Fest’s emphasis on food, craft beers and cocktails, interactive experiences and, of course, a plethora of music.

“This is a brand new event,” stressed North Park Main Street Executive Director Angela Landsberg, who has headed the organization for the past 11 years. She was previously a legislative aide to former San Diego City Council member Christine Kehoe.

“The new festival is specifically for people who want to come and listen to good music,” Landsberg continued. “One of the things I love about North Park is that it’s a destination that is diverse and has a lot of different attractions. We’re hoping for a good mix of people at the festival.”

Celeste Spina of the San Diego-bred duo Little Hurricane
Celeste Spina of the San Diego-bred duo Little Hurricane is shown in action. The band will perform at this weekend’s North Park Music Fest.
(Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images)

Haikus requested!

All of the musical performers for this weekend’s festival were booked by Dang Nguyen. He is the former co-owner of North Park’s Bar Pink, which went permanently out of business during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Nguyen, who in January became the president of Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Society, had previously booked musical talent for the Bar Pink Stage at the North Park Festival of the Arts. Now, armed with a bigger budget and a music-driven format that eliminates the crafts vendors who dominated much of the previous event, he has three stages to book.

“Angie and North Park Main Street pretty much gave me a blank canvas this year,” said Nguyen, a University of California San Diego anthropology major.

“Even though it’s a completely different, or reimagined, event from the North Park Festival of the Arts, the music programming is still pretty much the same — local bands that are family-friendly. If any of the artists have any explicit lyrics, we’ve asked them to perform the ‘radio edit’ versions of those songs. For most of the bands, it’s not an issue at all.

“I think that maybe 25 percent of the bands had previously played at the North Park Festival of the Arts. But the majority never played at the festival or Bar Pink.”

Nguyen made an unusual request of all the music acts who sought to perform at this weekend’s festival. Each was asked to submit a haiku explaining why they wanted to be included in the lineup.

“It was just a way to have fun,” he said. “And it was a way to see that they read the fine print and were reliable. I answered each haiku with one of my own.”

One of the more whimsical came from the San Diego band Rosa Rosa. Its haiku read: The trees sway gently /
The birds sit on top of them / Don’t poop on me, birds.

Nguyen responded with a similarly lighthearted haiku of his own: Bird poop from above / Fretful worry from below / Up goes umbrella.

Nathan Williams, left, and Brian Hill of the San Diego band Wavves
Nathan Williams, left, and Brian Hill of the San Diego band Wavves are shown performing at the Adult Swim Festival in Los Angeles. Wavves will be one of the headliners at the new North Park Music Fest.
(Vivien Killilea / Getty Images for Adult Swim)

Early Street Scene vibe

With music performances on three stages in close proximity, North Park Music Fest won’t require attendees to walk very far.

As such, it evokes the early days of San Diego Street Scene, the pioneering homegrown festival that was held for most of its 25 years in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter.

Launched in 1984 by San Diego Jazz Festival founder Rob Hagey, Street Scene originally featured just two stages on one block. It then grew to three stages on two blocks, then expanded incrementally until — in its largest iteration — it included more than a dozen stages spread out over a sizable area of downtown.

Street Scene also included colorfully attired stilt-walkers, imaginative outdoor projections and other elements that contributed to its festive urban vibe. North Park Music Fest will likewise include projections and stilt-walkers, along with painted “human statues,” open-air lounges, photo booths, at least seven 6-foot-tall inflatable unicorns, and more.

And, as was the case at Street Scene in its latter years, North Park Music Fest attendees will have in-and-out access if they want to go visit a nearby eatery or bar.

“Street Scene was almost like pop-up restaurants, where stages appeared on city streets and suddenly you had all this energy happening,” said Rene’ Roques, who provided some of the sound and lights for Street Scene. His company, Roques & Associates Inc., is doing the same for North Park Music Fest

“There are some parallels to Street Scene,” Landsberg agreed, while noting one key difference.

Where Street Scene had to fence off all areas where alcohol was served in order to keep minors out, North Park Music Fest will be the first test run for the new Special Events Mixed Ages Pilot Program for the City of San Diego.

“Once you get a wristband, after proving you are over 21, you’ll be able walk around with your drink and your kids,” Landsberg said. “This is a much more civil way to run an all-ages event.”

North Park Music Fest

When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: North Park Way between Utah St. and 30th St.

Tickets: $20 for single-day pass and $30 for two-day passes bought in advance; $25 for tickets bought on site during the festival; kids under 11 are admitted free; $65 for 21-and-up Sunday VIP brunch (attendance is limited to 100)

Online: northparkmainstreet.com

North Park Music Fest performance schedule

Saturday

Nova Stage at North Park Mini Park

1:30-2:10 p.m.: All Monster Revue

2:30-3:10 p.m.: Pleasure Device

3:30-4:10 p.m.: Rosa Rossa

4:30-5:10 p.m.: Trouble in the Wind

5:30-6:10 p.m.: Tulengua

6:30-7:10 p.m.: Petty Saints

7:30-8:10 p.m.: Lord Howler

8:10-9:30 p.m.: Little Hurricane

9:30-10:30 p.m.: Various DJs performing from the top of the Wonder Bus

Broadway Salon Stage

12:55-1:25 p.m.: Come Closer

1:45-2:25 p.m.: Fistfights with Wolves

2:45-3:25 p.m.: Cochinas Locas

3:45-4:25 p.m.: Taller Children

4:45-5:25 p.m.: Montalban Quintet

5:45-6:25 p.m.: The Color Forty Nine

6:45-7:25: Julia Sage

7:45-8:25 p.m.: Creepy Creeps

Crushed Stage

12:30-1 p.m.: Landis

1:20-1:50 p.m.: .357 Magnum

2:10-2:40 p.m.: Sunday Shoes

3-3:40 p.m.: Geezer

4-4:40 p.m.: Tamar Berk

5-5:40 p.m.: Barbara Wire

6 -6:40 p.m.: Ocelot & The 8-Balls

7 -7:40 p.m.: Goldettes

8 -8:40 p.m.: Whitney Shay

Sunday

Nova Stage North Park Mini Park

12:20-12:50 p.m.: Kid Tributes

1:10-1:40 p.m.: Grampadrew

2-2:40 p.m.: Sutton James & The Finest City Band

3-3:40 p.m.: Shawn Rohlf

4-4:40 p.m.: Finnegan Blue

5-6 p.m.: Silent Comedy

Broadway Salon Stage

Noon-12:30 p.m.: Purple Kief

12:50-1:20 p.m.: SeaBase

1:40-2:10 p.m.: Mokoto

2:30-3:10 p.m.: Free for All

3:30-4:10 p.m.: Euphoria Brass Band

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Wavves

Crushed Stage

1-5 p.m.: DJ Root. Ric Scales & Dunekat Present Slappin’ Hands


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