Photos by Brian Addison. Full gallery below.
We’ve called it the golden grail of Long Beach music and with good reason reason: Buskerfest brings out local talent in a way that no other event in the city does, by providing a space (on the back of a flatbed) to perform in front of an audience who gets to attend for free and vote for their favorites by chucking wooden nickels the band’s way.
While sadly marking the end of the Summer and Music series for 2014, it was a win for Bearcoon [pictured left], the self-described “Hillbilly Mountain Blues Lumberjack Rock” duo that is Solange Igoa and Andrea Walker. What makes this win particularly refreshing is that their performance was one which truly harkened to the more authentic idea of busking, where massive amounts of equipment were avoided in favor of pure acoustic awesomeness. It was catchy, captivating, tinged in Southern soul and twang, even amongst technical difficulties.
This, of course, isn’t to downsize the other competing bands.
Darryl Mapp’s back-of-the-truck blues band Classic—which gives regular performances from, well, the back of a truck—opened the festival with their unmistakeable sound that reaches back to a bygone era of blues Americana—a sound mimicked by newcomers like young artist Jessie Daniel Edwards.
This was followed by a supergroup consisting of Chris Hanlin, Johnny Jones and Ricky IV, of which Hanlin and Jones are former Long Beachers. Many expected them to take the crown, given the trio’s following as individual artists (Hanlin hails from roadhouse blues outfits The Dibs and Bourbon Jones while Jones is best known as the frontman of his band The Suffering Halos). Jones was unabashed in his blatant assertion that the band was, in his opinion, the best. Repeatedly asking the audience, “Have we won yet?” in between songs and prefacing each song with a best-song-ever-written mini-rant, the band, if anything, ultimately proved that their egos were distasteful in the eyes of nickel-throwers.
The Moderates rock Buskerfest.
If there was a group that was to beat Bearcoon, it certainly wasn’t So Many Wizards, whose formulaic, wait-is-that-Fleet-Foxes? sound was easily lost to people texting throughout their performance. Nor was it Ghetto Blaster$, whose chances of winning had little to do with their hip-hop talent more than, well, they were an electronic hip-hop outfit amidst folders and rockers. Or even pro-skater gone jazzy guitarist/bassist/drummer/harper/xylophoner/badass Ray Barbee. Or CSULB band Thy Squid.
No, the band that came closest to taking down the crowd favorite would have to be The Moderates, whose absolutely infectious pop-rock sound garnered the largest and most grooving crowd of the event. The trio consists of youngins Josh Taylor (age 19), Wes Mathison (age 19) and Garret Huff (age 20) who, despite their youth, already have a refined talent for pumping out the kind of tunes you want to listen to over and over again.
Wooden nickels and winners aside, what is to be taken from this year’s Buskerfest is that the idea that free music, free community events, and Long Beach’s talent are things that need to continue to be offered, accessed, and uplifted.
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