Sept. 1 2012 12:00 AM

Also, what San Diego could learn from the epic L.A. music festival

The Soft Pack

This past weekend marked three years since the last Street Scene, the multi-day music festival that, for the most part, was held Downtown and featured some of the biggest and up-and-coming names in music. I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of miss it. ---

Despite the abundance of hotels and San Diego's hospitable nature, logistical problems remain and nothing has really emerged to replace Street Scene. It's easy to see his weekend's SoCAL Music Festival going somewhere in the future, and I hope that it does well so the promoters can actually book some better talent.

The electronic-dance music fests put on by promoters like LED Presents attract some huge national and international talent. This weekend's two-day Tramps Like Us festival is no different, with big names like Wolfgang Gartner and Moby stopping by. There are pros and cons to this particular concert: It's cool that it's 18-and-over (no annoying raver kids), but it's being held in what's sure to be a sweaty and cavernous San Diego Sports Arena (er, I mean, Valley View Casino Center). And, it's somewhat limited in that it only showcases EDM artists (much like the Johnny Rad Fest, also happening this weekend, focuses on 
punk-rock), but the lineup is legit enough; check it out if you're into that kind of music.

The upcoming San Diego Music Thing (aka North Park Music Thing aka North by North Park) has evolved into something pretty swell. Modeled after South by Southwest, the festival and accompanying conference, with lectures and workshops with musicians and insiders covering a variety of topics, now features more than just local artists and bands (Hunx and his Punx, Wildcat! Wildcat! and JJAMZ to name a few). Still, it'll be awhile before SDMT attracts flocks of out-of-towners.

This weekend's FYF Festival in Los Angeles could very well serve as a model for what a music festival like SoCAL or even San Diego Music Thing could look like in the future. Started in 2004 by Angeleno Sean Carlson, the original Fuck Yeah Fest was held at The Echo and featured more than a dozen bands that you've either never heard of or likely forgotten about. It soldiered on at The Echo and a few other venues over the next few years, adding bigger bands (mostly L.A. bands), a stand-up-comedy component, more days and even became a travelling festival (much like the Warped Tour and Lollapalooza) in 2008.

Carlson stuck with it despite losing money, but the work paid off. Last year, the re-branded FYF Fest was promoted and, for the most part, run by AEG Live-owned Goldenvoice (they put that little concert on out in the desert, Coachella. Maybe you've heard of it?). Last year's fest, which was held in Downtown L.A.'s State Historic Park, was a multi-stage, one-day affair and featured some bigger indie names like The Descendents, Broken Social Scene and Girls. This year's fest (also at Historic Park) has expanded into two days with a more eclectic and varied lineup. (See below for some of my picks to see if you're going.)

The example of FYF is a useful one. Yeah, the O.G. hipster set that attended FYF's original summer shows cried "sell-out" when Goldenvoice was brought on, but they forget that whenever a fest goes mainstream or moves venues because of increased popularity, something (or someone) always pops up to replace it. Whether or not fests like SoCal Music Fest, Tramps Like Us and San Diego Music Thing will mature and grow into concert experiences on par with the larger fests in other cities remains to be seen. We certainly have the space, weather and reputation to put on such a festival. We just need someone to step up and make it happen. Even if it's from the ground up and takes years to get there.

Heading to FYF? Here are some acts that are a must-see (and a few that you shouldn't even bother with):


The Soft Pack: One of two San Diego acts (be sure to go and support The Hot Snakes as well) that are playing on Saturday; these guys play a spirited live show and I imagine they'll be pulling a lot of the songs from their excellent forthcoming sophomore album, Strapped.

King Tuff: Ridiculously awesome garage-pop fronted by a cracked-out guitar prodigy who'll probably rock so hard that he'll get heat stroke.

Redd Kross: These pop-punks (think The Replacements, not blink-182) recently reunitred and much like The Feelies and Mission to Burma, proved they're in it for the right reasons with their stellar new album, Researching the Blues, their first in more than 15 years. The reviews for the reunion shows have been glowing.

Chairlift: If you caught this co-ed electro-pop duo at The Casbah, then you already know they put on a great show and that frontwoman Caroline Polachek's voice sounds just as great live as it does on record.

Fucked Up: Rumor has it that frontman Damian Abraham is thinking of dismantling this brutal hardcore-punk band cause his voice is giving out. Listening to their music, it's easy to understand how that might be true, but after last year's masterpiece, David Comes to Life, here's hoping that this isn't the last chance we'll have to see them.

James Blake: You gotta give this electro prodigy credit for seeing the dubstep backlash coming just as the genre was getting hot. Blake made a U-turn and started producing what I can only describe as some sexy electro white-boy soul. Hit this stage up if you're on a date and want to get laid later.

Refused: Anyone who caught these guys at Coachella knows they haven't lost a beat since imploding in 2000 after releasing the very aptly titled The Shape of Punk to Come. Reports are mixed as to whether the band will continue to play together much longer, so this might be one of the last times to see them.

Don't bother with:
The Sleigh Bells hype has died down and for good reason. Everyone who's seen them live knows the that songs sound so similar to the record, you'd almost accuse them of playing the album over the speakers. That is, if frontwoman Alexis Krauss didn't sound like a cross between Gwen Stefani and Axl Rose (and not in a good way). Purity Ring has a great new record out, Shrines, but their live performances just aren't there yet (read: boring as all fuck). And while I love Vaselines on record, I can think of nothing I'd rather do less than sit in 90-degree heat (there's not a lot of trees or shade at FYF) and watch two old people play songs I only know because Nirvana did them better.


Daughn Gibson:
This White Denim member was recently signed to Sub Pop on the strength of his freakishly strange take on electro troubadourism, All Hell. Might be good, might be snoozy, but either way, you'll be witnessing a real up-and-comer.

Father John Misty: An original member of Fleet Foxes, Misty (previously known as J. Tillman) has released probably this year's best singer-songwriter record with Fear Fun. His new live band takes more mellow songs like "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" and "Funtimes in Babylon" and brings them to life in a grand way. Oh, and his voice is as good as any other Fox, Fleet or otherwise.

Lightning Bolt: OK, I'm not a huge fan of this cracked-out noise-rock band from Providence, Rhode Island, but my friend Jocelyn swears they have to be seen live to be appreciated. Then again, she smokes a lot of pot, so maybe that's what it is. Intrigued nonetheless.

HEALTH: Watch this video and tell me you're not at least somewhat interested in seeing what these L.A. noise-rockers are like live. Really? OK, your loss.

Against Me!: In case you missed it, the singer of this Florida punk band recently came out as transgender and has changed his name from Tom to Laura. No matter, she can still scream with the best of 'em.

Nicolas Jarr: The recent addition of Jarr to the FYF lineup gives the fest a much-needed cultural kick in the pants. Much more than an electro artist, the American-Chilean house producer released the exemplary Space is Only Noise last year to critical acclaim and his live show consists of him mixing his band's sounds into fractured, but wholly gorgeous, noise.

Don't bother with:
Jesus Christ, The Faint are still around? Maybe I should give them credit in that they saw this whole EDM frenzy coming, but I just never found them particularly novel and their live show sounds exactly like their albums, so don't expect any surprises. While I've never been a huge Aesop Rock fan, his new album is decent. Still, rap shows at festivals kind of blow in general (beats sounds like crap, vocals are distorted, etc.) and I don't expect him to sound any different. And while he's not a musician, I'm looking forward to skipping David Cross and just moving onto whoever is playing on the next stage, mainly because he's the most overrated comedian of the last 30 years. Don't be fooled by his material Mr. Show and Arrested Development; his stand-up is nauseating.


See all events on Friday, Dec 2