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The great little show next door

September 01, 2003|Geoff Boucher

You can hardly call the San Diego Street Scene a well-kept secret -- after all, the event starting Friday is expected to pack close to 100,000 revelers into the city's historic Gaslamp Quarter over its three days -- but somehow the show remains off the radar of many Angelenos.

For this 19th year of the Scene, the decidedly eclectic lineup includes 80 acts, among them R.E.M., the Sex Pistols, Macy Gray, the 21st Century Doors, the Allman Brothers Band, Wilco, Bad Religion, Ozomatli, 311, Christopher Lawrence and Buckwheat Zydeco. Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry magazine Pollstar, says that lineup puts Street Scene on par with the major urban festivals in Seattle and Atlanta and other notable efforts across the nation. Even that, though, may not turn the heads of blase L.A. fans who are a bit spoiled by the dense local concert calendar.

"L.A. has got everything anyway, I guess, so it's not like everyone will be talking about the big party in San Diego," says Bongiovanni. "These festivals are often like that, with a strong localized appeal."

In 1984, the first Scene offered just rock and blues (Los Lobos and the Blasters headlined, and admission was $5 for five bands -- this year it's $40 per day for advance tickets, $45 on site) but now the program includes an electronic dance music party, the Starbucks Jazz Lounge and the Lipton Tea Hip-Hop tour. Street Scene has a vague Mardi Gras vibe to it -- alcoholic drinks are permitted in the streets within the cordoned-off district, and on Friday and Saturday the festival is for ages 21 and older only. On those nights there are also Brazilian marching troupes, a drag queen cabaret and a faux casino. For more information, call (619) 557-8490 or go to www.street-scene.com.

-- Geoff Boucher

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