September 6, 1991


location: "Michelob Street Scene"
place: San Diego, CA
country: USA


FESTIVAL: 1991 Michelob Street Scene on Tap : The Word on the Street : Gaslamp: More music, food and special touches promise to make this year's Michelob Street Scene the best ever. Performers as varied as Texas Tornedos, Queen Ida, Beat Farmers, Highway 101 and B.B. King will be there.


SAN DIEGO — The eighth installment of the Michelob Street Scene--already the biggest annual music and food festival in Southern California--looks to be the best in the series, judging from information provided Tuesday at a press conference held by the event's producer, Rob Hagey.

Scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 6 and 7, the 1991 Street Scene again promises a feast for both the senses and the palate. The event's core attraction remains its richly diverse lineup of musical talent. Genres and sub-genres represented this year include rock, reggae, Cajun-zydeco, blues, jazz, world beat, country, Latino, gospel, and, for the first time, Tex-Mex, or conjunto , music.

Headliners include such stalwarts as Tex-Mex heroes the Texas Tornados and Joe (King) Carrasco; zydeco's Queen Ida and Zachary Richard; gospel's Five Blind Boys of Alabama; '60s stars Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Rare Earth, and Eric Burdon with Brian Auger; reggae standouts Burning Spear and Eek-A-Mouse; blues greats B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor; country hit makers Highway 101; jazz veterans Bennie Wallace and Jon Faddis; rockers the Beat Farmers and Jellyfish, and many more.

In addition, a multiethnic food fair will correspond to the wide variety of ethnic and regional sounds represented by the event's musical acts; four over-21 "beer gardens" will offer respite for parched throats and taste buds singed by some of the spicier entrees; and vendors will display arts, crafts, and other wares almost as eclectic as the music.

The festival will cover 12 blocks of downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, the same acreage as last year's event, but Hagey noted a major difference in the '91 festival's layout.

"This year, 5th Avenue will act as a sort of hub of activity, from which the other blocks and attractions will fan out," he said. "That will give the festival a kind of center of gravity that it has lacked in the past. You know, when you do something at a particular venue, and then you have a whole year to plan an event for the same venue, you look for ways to improve on past efforts, and that's what we've done."

According to Hagey, other improvements have come in the form of expanded music presentations (50 acts on 10 stages this year, up from 40 acts on eight stages in 1990), food services, security and overall production. Hagey said there will be a more creative use of lighting effects and projections, adding a new dimension to this year's model.

Yet, Hagey happily reported that, in spite of these improvements, the '91 Street Scene will remain accessible to the most budget-conscious music lover. "This year's festival is costing us more to produce than last year's, and yet we're only raising the cost of admission by one dollar," he said. Tickets for each day's events will cost $16 in advance, $20 at the door.

The first-time use of the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre for jazz concerts and the Kansas City Steak House for blues and Latino performances are other innovations that have Hagey both thrilled and harried.

"This thing is such a mammoth undertaking," he continued. "In addition to the production and logistical considerations, pulling this off requires so much understanding and cooperation on the part of the downtown merchants and the city. For example, there's a lot of development going on in that area, and we have to take into consideration construction schedules and personnel and whatnot. But the event is exciting largely because that urban environment makes for such a unique venue, and that's why we put so much time and energy into it."

The Michelob Street Scene is one of the few sociocultural events in San Diego that has developed a self-sustaining momentum. In its first couple of incarnations (the event debuted with two installments in 1984), the Street Scene had the anything-goes ambience of a big-city block party, which essentially is what it is. The event's middle years brought some experimentation in the music, location, and overall scope, as Hagey and his colleagues worked out the kinks and discovered what would and wouldn't work.

Last year's edition seemed the culmination of all the trials and tinkering, and this year's Street Scene promises to advance the cause another several steps. By now, the festival has found its groove; people no longer need to be convinced of the good times, food, and music to be had--they just need a rundown of the particulars to jot down in their appointment books.

For Hagey, reflecting on the roster of talent brought to mind one performer whose appearance in the '91 Street Scene represents a completed circle of sorts.

"Robert Cray was an opening act in 1984, and he'll be here this year with the Memphis Horns," Hagey said. "I remember he was pretty much an unknown around here the first time. John Doe, who was here to perform that night with the band X, and who had never seen Cray, was in the audience raving about him. Cray had come down because he was friends with the Neville Brothers, who were playing that year. Several years later, it's nice to have him back and to see how much he's progressed in his career."


The Sound of Diversity : Music: Scope of artists, music styles fuel growing popularity of Street Scene.


SAN DIEGO — The Michelob Street Scene, which takes its eighth annual bow on Friday and Saturday in an area covering 12 blocks of downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, is becoming a nationally recognized "Big Event" for a number of very good, somewhat obvious reasons.

Perhaps most importantly, the summertime blowout showcases an impressive, broad spectrum of musical talent--from veteran stars to current hit makers, from cult favorites to tomorrow's buzzes, from local artists familiar mostly to San Diego club habitues to ethnic performers of international renown.

A similarly diverse array of food; a casual, metropolitan ambience; and the heady, escapist fizz of an all-day, all-night soiree (usually abetted by shirt-sleeve weather) contribute to an eclectic appeal that has been trumpeted far and wide by performers, pleased patrons, and such eavesdropping media shoguns as MTV.

But an equally significant, albeit less glamorous, factor in the Street Scene's success story is its avoidance of many of the pitfalls of rapid growth that have handicapped other urban music festivals.

Nashville, for one example, recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its increasingly popular "Summer Lights" urban fair by expanding to cover more of the city's downtown. As a result, at times the distance between music stages was so great that patrons had to be shuttled from one part of the festival to another, dissipating the focal energy that is so crucial to these events.

Milwaukee's heavily attended "SummerFest" boasts a midway with rides, a variety of foods, and continuous amateur entertainment but now requires separate admission to the series of concerts featuring big-name recording artists. The Chicago Blues Festival stretches out over several days and has grown into such a sprawling smorgasbord of restaurant booths, radio-station razzmatazz and other attractions that the music has become almost secondary.

Perhaps the Street Scene's closest analogue in terms of musical diversity is New Orleans' world-famous Jazz and Heritage Festival. But that gala, which is held in the daytime at a racetrack, draws as many as 100,000 revelers per day over two weekends. Its size and relative lack of organization are drawbacks.

By comparison, the Street Scene continues to grow, both physically (more than 50 acts presented on 10 simultaneously active stages this year) and in attendance (25,000 people expected each night), while maintaining the convivial, parochial spirit of a huge block party. But the Street Scene's overriding achievement is its seamless integration of such components as a multiethnic food fair, four over-21 "beer gardens," and vendors hawking arts, crafts, and other wares, into a festival that steadfastly places the main emphasis on the presentation of live music.

This year's Street Scene offers the most variegated gathering of talent in its history, ranging from the stellar electric blues of B.B. King (Saturday) to the arcane delights of jazz banjoist Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (also Saturday). Among the nearly 60 acts are headline-status representatives from the worlds of country, Cajun-zydeco, jazz, Latino, blues, reggae, world beat, rock, and Tex-Mex or conjunto music.

That last category is new to the 1991 lineup. Once novices get a taste of this effervescent, dance-dictatin' hybrid of Mexican (Norteno, Tejano), German (polka), and American (country) music, however, Tex-Mex could become a Street Scene staple.

The most noteworthy Tex-Mex entry might be the Texas Tornados, who play Friday night. This all-star cast (Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Freddie Fender, Flaco Jimenez) ripped it up at the Del Mar Fair earlier this summer. But there is no drop-off in quality when you roll-call the likes of Austin's Joe (King) Carrasco y Las Coronas (Friday), Grammy-winning accordionist Santiago Jimenez, Jr., brother of Flaco (Friday), Mingo Saldivar y sus Tremendos 4 Espadas (Friday), and Brave Combo (Friday and Saturday).

Other Street Scene highlights to listen for include Dash Rip Rock, the ferocious roots-country-punk trio from New Orleans, who will be joined for their Friday show by San Diego's own madman, Mojo Nixon; Buddy Guy, the legendary Chicago blues guitarist who squeezes sparks from every note (Friday); Les Tetes Brulees, the outrageous Afro-Pop band from Cameroon (Saturday); saucy Queen Ida and Her Zydeco Band (Friday); up-and-coming blues phenom John Campbell (Friday); sizzling blues-rock-N'Awlins-boogie keyboardist-singer Marcia Ball (Saturday); seismic gospel vocalists Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama (Friday); and innovative country band, Highway 101 (Saturday).