Bay Area Festivals

While it was nice and warm today, it’s been a pretty dreary summer so far in terms of the weather. It’s been a pattern of a few days of warmth only to be followed a cold streak. The inclement weather makes it that much nicer when the sun’s shining and there’s a festival to go to. While all of the festivals in the Bay Area have the same basic elements of vendor stalls, food stands and live music, each one reflects the community in which they’re located. The Union Street Festival in San Francisco sometimes feels like a giant frat party, an opportunity for the Marina guys and girls to make a connection with one another while the Fillmore Jazz Festival caters to a more older and diverse crowd who are there not to pick up but to really just enjoy the music.

The Fremont Festival of the Arts, despite being located in a suburb that’s pretty boring and stale, is a pretty cool festival. A big plus is that it’s several blocks long, near public transportation and allows visitors to walk along the festival grounds with their drink in hand. My personal opinion is that no matter how great the crowd, music, vendors and food are at a festival, the fun is significantly reduced when you’re forced into a pen to enjoy some libations. You buy a wine glass, beer mug, or margarita cup for $6 and pay $5 each time you fill it up at a station. This obviously means that the purchase is more worth it the more you drink. This poor Chinese guy in front of me couldn’t understand this and reluctantly forked over $11 just so that his girlfriend can get one margarita.

True to its name, the Fremont Festival of the Arts devotes most of its space to art vendors. Instead of being bombarded by deep-fried twinkies everywhere you turn, you actually have to search out the food. While the food is your typical nachos, fries and corn dogs, at least they’re all run by non-profit organizations who use the money to help run their organizations.

I just had to take this photo. I grew up in West Oakland and this was definitely not the style back then. Gentrification by way of punk?

The Art & Soul Oakland is notable for being one of the rare successful big public events in downtown Oakland. If you follow the news, you’ll know that Oakland has a very high crime and poverty rate. While some areas (the hills and areas immediately near the hills) are really nice and have multi-million dollar homes, the flatlands are a totally different story. Parts of downtown Oakland are especially dodgy and a no-go zones for many people at night. All of this makes the success of the two-day Art & Soul Oakland, which has been in existence for many years, that much more impressive. The $15 entrance fee ($10 if you purchase beforehand online) definitely helps to keep out the riff raff and brings in big talent like Tower of Power and Five for Fighting.

Despite all its problems, there’s one thing that Oakland has, and that’s rhythm!


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