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Laurel Summer Solstice Music Festival!

Tomorrow marks the 7th annual Laurel District Summer Solstice Music Festival.  It’s an all day event featuring 25 bands, DJ’s, artists, and kids activities, focused truly on the cultural & artistic microcosm that is the Laurel District.

Festivities begin as early as 9am (enjoy your morning coffee from World Ground Café over the acoustic bluegrass and bluesy/folksy stylings of the Clusterpluckers – you’ve gotta love that name!), and will run well past the official 8pm close of the festival as a few special acts move indoors (“King” Sunny Ade’s band will be featured at West African restaurant Miliki, and one of Todd Huth’s current outfits, The Knuckles, will perform at Lounge 3411, which gets nearly 5 stars on Yelp, and according to one Yelper, is “a secret magical place in the hood.”)

The festival is being hosted by the Laurel Village Association (LVA) with a great deal of support from Acme House of Music – a veritable institution to local musicians (check out my post from last year’s festival for a short download on Acme:  Support Local Music in Oaktown – bring your lawn chairs and dancing shoes!).

According to the LVA…

Unbeknownst to many, our neighborhood is represented by some of the world’s most well respected artist/bands within a myriad of musical genres including rock, electronic, soul, jazz, hip-hop, punk, metal, experimental, blues and beyond.  And so, this year the festival has a line-up composed solely of talent from our diverse microcosm of Oakland.  Believe it or not, the outstanding entertainment showcased this year is being provided by your neighbors!

From Carl Lockett (Bay Area legendary jazz/rock/funk guitarist), to Matt Payne of chiptune band The Glowing Stars (for those who don’t know, chiptune is a genre of music created using limited sound cards, usually from retro gaming machines such as the NES, Atari ST, and the original Game boys) to surf-rockabilly outfit Trivalve, to the alt-country stylings of The Rogers… the list goes on and on.  See full list of musicians here.

I’m not sure what else to say, except Go!

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Support Local Music in Oaktown – bring your lawn chairs and dancing shoes!

Summer Solstice Music Festival & Acme House of Music… in the Laurel

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This Saturday, June 25th, the Laurel Neighborhood Village Association will be hosting its 6th annual Summer Solstice Music Festival.  Inspired by Fete de la Musique in France, where both amateur and professional musicians play in the streets on the summer solstice, the Laurel Festival will feature over two dozen local Bay Area musicians performing inside stores or cafes, or out on street corners and parking lots… all FREE.

Performances will begin as early as 9am and will continue throughout the day with the Fete Jam wrapping things up from 7:30-8pm at the main stage, located on Patterson Street which will be closed off to through traffic. MacArthur, though not closed to traffic, will likely be very crowded… best to walk, bike, or take public transit. And don’t forget your dancin’ shoes!

Nearby venues hosting musical acts include:

  • Ace Hardware – 4024 MacArthur
  • Acme House of Music – 3715 MacArthur
  • Kids n Dance – 3840 MacArthur
  • Laurel Bookstore – 4100 MacArthur
  • Monique’s Clozet! – 4140 MacArthur
  • World Ground Café – 3726 MacArthur

See map below, plus the full festival schedule here.

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Of special note is the Acme House of Music, a neighborhood institution for over 40 years!

The music shop was opened in the early 70’s by jazz drummer Jay Rose, who manned the shop during the days, selling sheet music & instruments and providing lessons to a large roster of students, and spent nights playing gigs in San Francisco in his bow tie and black tuxedo. He kept up this routine for decades until 2004 when a fire destroyed a portion of the store, much of the equipment housed there, and part of the business next door. Needless to say it was devastating and Jay never fully recovered from the loss.

Jay is still a fixture in the shop (I know this because – personal disclaimer – I’ve been taking drum lessons here for the last couple of months), but now he visits as a guest of honor.

Acme was taken over by husband and wife (and friends of Jay’s) Annette & John in late 2009 when it became clear that he needed help… he was then 83! Both music lovers, they were at a transitional time in their lives as well with a new toddler added to the family… they decided to ditch their more conventional day jobs and take on the project of updating Acme into a modern day independent music store. Not an easy task in the day of cheap goods from China readily available with the click of a mouse or big box stores like Guitar Center.

But John & Annette are providing something that you can’t get at a box store or over the internet. It’s SOUL.

Their philosophy revolves around making music accessible to everyone, and providing great value in the services they offer.  Their goals are to provide:

  • A family friendly environment for learning – They’ve spent quite a bit of time clearing out decades of clutter, renovating the space with additional storage and larger practice rooms; and their roster of teacher musicians is quite impressive…  professional working musicians like Donald Duck Bailey (yes, the Donald Duck Bailey).
  • Unique offerings – John is an audiophile with a particular interest in vintage equipment; he’s always on the lookout for hard to find gear and unusual used equipment, and repair services are offered as well (see rave reviews on Yelp)
  • Customer oriented service – They pride themselves on pointing customers to what feels and sounds best rather than a one size fits all approach that’s focused only on the bottom line (often used equipment can be less expensive and sound better than new)
  • Supporting the community with integrity – They are truly part of the Laurel community and take pride in supporting other local business…  getting haircuts at the neighboring salon, flowers at the local florist, etc.  They also pride themselves on being “green” – and repurposed items from Goodwill and the local Hollywood Video that went out of business in their recent renovations.

I asked Annette what the biggest challenge has been, and not surprisingly, she said so much to do with so little time (and a limited budget), plus a 3-year-old in tow!

But more importantly I asked her about the greatest rewards they’ve experienced through Acme. She said it’s the connection they’ve established to the neighborhood and local residents… “It’s our community.  It’s our family.”

John, who has over 25 years experience DJ’ing and recording music, is donating all of the sound equipment for the festival’s main stage, literally saving the Laurel Association thousands of dollars.

Do check out the festival, and don’t forget to pop into Acme Music to say hello.  They’ll have their own set of performers out front, including many of the amazing musicians who teach lessons at their shop.

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