Rob Hagey, founder and producer of the San Diego Street Scene, still marvels at the growth of the festival he conceived 10 years ago after producing jazz concerts in old buildings in a run-down part of the city.
"If I was to say back (then) that I would be responsible for what is now 84 acts, 13 stages and a million-dollar budget, I would have said, 'No, thank you. I'll stick to tennis.'
"In the early years, it was, 'What can I do to lure people down here?' " Hagey said. "Now, it's like, 'Where can I park?' "
Hagey's good-natured modesty notwithstanding, Street Scene has become California's largest music and food festival. The event, once referred to as a "multicultural musical theme park," will convene Friday and Saturday in San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter.
The 10th anniversary edition is bigger and more diverse than ever: More than 80 musical acts--including East L.A.'s Los Lobos, Cajun musician Zachary Richard and jazzman Joshua Redman--will perform across a 21-block area from 5:30 p.m.-midnight Friday and 4:30 p.m.-midnight Saturday. Some 60,000 people are expected to attend.
Reflecting an eclectic musical philosophy that has been compared to that of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Street Scene will cover blues (including B.B. King), Texas folk (Tish Hinojosa), gospel (the Mighty Clouds of Joy), African (Zulu Spear and Ali Farka Toure) and alternative rock (Belly). Also lined up are such "classic-rock" acts as Jefferson Starship, Steppenwolf and folkie Richie Havens.
Street Scene was born in May, 1984, after a collaboration with the Kool Jazz Festival convinced Hagey that outdoor concerts might help boost the San Diego jazz scene. A tell-it-like-it-is slogan--"Five bands, five bucks, five hours"--helped lure about 3,500 music lovers to hear the first show featuring the Blasters and Los Lobos. A second show later that summer featured the Neville Brothers, X and Robert Cray.
Although his roots were in jazz, Hagey learned quickly that a diversified bill would draw more people.
"Street Scene became a way to expand and deliver something that still had that passion (of jazz), and mix it with the commercial (rock) groups," he said. "We didn't know it, but it turned out to be a real gem of a concept."
The "concept" grew to include two days of music on themed stages. Past lineups have included Albert Collins, King Sunny Ade, the Yellowjackets, Bad English, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, World Party and Steel Pulse.
This year, Hagey is hoping the combination of multicultural "mini-festivals" and performances by well-known Latino artists--including the Texas band Mazz and Ramon Ayala, whom Hagey calls "the godfather of the \o7 conjunto\f7 style of accordion playing"--will bring more newcomers to the event.
And the success of Street Scene has Hagey and his 10 associates considering requests to expand the festival--or re-create it in other cities, such as Albuquerque and Phoenix.
Tickets for Street Scene are $20 in advance, $23 at the door, and $35 for the advance two-day package. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets.
For information, call (619) 557-8487 or (619) 268-9025.