And now, how 'bout a round of applause for Rob Hagey? C'mon, folks, give it up for the man who created San Diego's signature music celebration—Street Scene—an event that endured for 25 years and grew into one of the country's coolest outdoor festivals.
Last week, on CityBeat's Lastblogonearth.com, Kelly Davis broke the news that Rob Hagey Productions is deep in debt, unable to pay its creditors (disclosure alert: including CityBeat) to the tune of $2.8 million. The company is liquidating its assets and filed for something known as a General Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors.
In an e-mail, Hagey told Davis that “this is a life altering time, something that hurts me deeply as I'm very passionate about music.”
In a follow-up e-mail, Hagey said he was finished with Street Scene. But, he added, “I hope Street Scene can be around another twenty-five more years.”
We share that hope. We'd like to see someone pick up the torch that Hagey is so unceremoniously, and so unfortunately, laying down and return Street Scene to its roots—in Downtown San Diego, closer to the Gaslamp Quarter, if not directly in it.
As most of you know, Street Scene was a unique Gaslamp event from 1984 through 2003. Those of us CityBeatniks who arrived in San Diego to merge with SLAMM magazine in 2002, got a little taste of what Street Scene was before it moved over next to Petco Park and were charmed by its urban aesthetic. Although crowded by 2003, it was fun to navigate the city streets between the various stages and experience great music tucked amid buildings rather than some vast, nondescript open space.
But the event's growth coincided with Downtown's growth, and the loss of surface parking lots hemmed in the festival to the point where it no longer fit. The 2004 edition at Petco turned out to be a transition to a new era in which Street Scene lost its character. In 2005, Hagey moved the thing to Qualcomm Stadium, and Troy Johnson, then CityBeat's music editor, derisively dubbed the event “Parking Lot Scene,” sparking Hagey's ire.
After a second year at Qualcomm and one year at Coors Amphitheatre, Hagey brought Street Scene back Downtown, to the East Village neighborhood, but by 2008, the economy was tanking, and this year, too few people were willing to kick down the high ticket price—the cancellation of headliner The Beastie Boys didn't help matters—and Hagey lost his shirt.
We say this is a perfect time for a humbler event resurrected amid the urban core where it was born. We want a 2010 festival—or 2011 if there needs to be a cooling-off period for stiffed vendors—that takes things back to Street Scene's middle years, before it pulled in music's top-tier talent and outgrew its venue. City leaders and the Gaslamp Association can assist a new promoter by refraining from raising unnecessary obstacles.
We want to see mid-level headliners, with an array of supporting lower-tier performers that span a more eclectic spectrum of musical genres such as blues, reggae, electronica and others, for a more modest price. And we'd like to see an end to the beer cages that force attendees to choose between getting a beverage and getting close to a stage. We realize that allowing folks to drink out in the main area means a 21-and-up event, but perhaps, if the numbers pencil out, we can bring back no-alcohol Sunday.
Street Scene doesn't have to be one of the biggest festivals in the country to be successful. We don't need Radiohead or Madonna to have a good time. We don't need to out-book Coachella. We just need to remember what made Street Scene so compelling before it got too big for its britches, and we need a savvy promoter to make it happen.
Who will step up?
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