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Silver Lake's Sunset Junction Street Fair: A frolicking music festival

Headliners for the event, which begins Saturday, include Mary Wilson, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Sly and Robbie, Built to Spill and Les Nubians.

August 20, 2009|Margaret Wappler

Every August, it stalks the beating heart of Silver Lake, a monster of indie rock, soul and world music with booths hawking a variety of goods -- nerdy-cool book totes, T-shirts with saucy phrases, free AIDS tests, the ubiquitous tie-dyed dress -- and all manner of food, including stir-fried rice, meat on a stick and cups of sun-warmed beer.

Yep, it's the Sunset Junction Street Fair, now in its 29th year and scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Headliners for the music festival include Mary Wilson, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Sly and Robbie, Built to Spill, Les Nubians and several other acts that will play on one of three stages.

Last year, changes to the festival inspired a fair amount of furor, with shopkeepers and locals anxious to both protect access to their property and profit from the foot traffic. At root was a decision to cut off the festival at Sanborn Avenue instead of stretching it to Edgecliffe Drive as in previous years. That rancor lingered this year as official organizers, the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, and neighborhood businesses continued to scrap over the festival footprint.

Ryan Carpio, a representative of Council District 13, helped lead recent negotiations on behalf of the neighborhood residents and businesses. "Any kind of event that takes place in the city is always going to have neighborhood concerns, whether it's about trash or traffic. There were legitimate concerns about how this event impacts everyone."

This year, some of the compromises include extending the footprint to Edgecliffe Drive and offering free wristbands to all employees of the Junction's businesses. As in years past, the Alliance is also giving free wristbands to certain residential blocks affected by the fair (a full list can be viewed at the L.A. Times Pop & Hiss blog).

While things appear to be smoothed over, festival organizer Michael McKinley declined to comment on the negotiating process. "We're not going down that road," he said. "It's time to move on and heal." He wouldn't talk specifics about the festival either, saying only that "It's going to be wonderful."

The bookings -- jointly handled by Spaceland Productions, McKinley, and I & I Soundsystem's Shakespeare & Aurelito -- certainly portend a good time, though an iconic local act such as Beck or X is missing. On the plus side, several bands will have enthusiastic crowds to tap into, including punk rock ladies Mika Miko and the blues-laced jams of Rumspringa. Cult soul artist Chris Clark will also be performing.

For music publication L.A. Record, being a sponsor at Sunset Junction was key to their mission. "Many of the local bands playing this year are L.A. Record alumni," editor and co-founder Chris Ziegler said in an e-mail, "so it seemed like a good fit."

For everyone else, Sunset Junction offers a chance to frolic in the neighborhood at its most vibrant -- while 4100 Bar is packed from Buddha statue to velvet drapes and Intelligentsia mists all the beautiful kids in grandma sunglasses waiting in line for coffee. No matter what you think of it, it's the Silver Lake reality show.

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margaret.wappler@latimes.com

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Sunset Junction Street Fair

Where: 3700-4300 Sunset Blvd. and 4000-4200 Santa Monica Blvd.

When: Saturday and Sunday; performances start at noon (check website for set times)

Price: $15 in advance; $20 at the door

Contact: (323) 661-7771; www.sunsetjunction.org.

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